When Karen Hostetter began planning a Civil War program for kids, she wanted to portray a realistic picture of the war. As the youth services program coordinator at Dover Area Community Library, Hostetter relied on what she knew best: books.
“I was trying to make the war real to children,” Hostetter said. “There were so many children at the time who thought that this was glamorous when the war was coming to their town. They ran away from home to be drummer boys, girls made posies to give to soldiers when they came through town.
“They just thought this was excitement.”
But 1 in 4 soldiers who went to war never returned home, according to The Civil War Trust, a nonprofit based in Hagerstown, Md., that is dedicated to preserving endangered Civil War battlefields.
“I wanted to present the war to kids and say this is what happened to kids your age,” Hostetter said. “What would you do if this happened in your town?”
The original program, held in March, was so successful that Hostetter is planning a second event Aug. 6, focusing on the role of African-American troops and the history of the Underground Railroad.
The Pennsylvania Past Players will bring to life two characters: an African-American soldier who was at the Burning of the Bridge in Wrightsville, and a white drummer boy from Downingtown.
Hostetter will add in a few other books that better focus on those topics for August, she said. For families looking for general, age-appropriate books on the Civil War, she suggested the following:
Fred Thorn was 7 years old when his father went away to war. With his mother pregnant, Fred was left to take care of his two younger brothers and tend the family cemetery — which also became a battle site in the Battle of Gettysburg.
“It’s beautifully done, with lots of illustrations,” Hostetter said. “Seven years old and he had to help dig graves because his father was away at the war.”
The Civil War Trust put this book out especially for the 150th anniversary this summer, with 50 fun things for kids to do and see.
“It’s not just Gettysburg,” Hostetter said.
“The Little Bugler” is a true story about a 12-year-old boy who started out as a drummer boy and became a bugler.
He befriended Tad Lincoln, who was “fascinated the kid was the same age as him and was in all these battles,” Hostetter said. When Tad Lincoln asked his father if the bugler could visit the White House, the boy was given leave for the trip.
“The kids loved that; they were just fascinated with that,” Hostetter said with a laugh.
Tillie Pierce was 15 at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, and her diary became one of the most well-read accounts of the battle.
“It’s in the adult collection, but I think any older child could read this, really,” Hostetter said.
“One of the most poignant books of all is called ‘Pink and Say,’” Hostetter said.
Two boy soldiers from the North, one white and one black, get separated from their troops in the South. When the white boy is wounded, the black boy brings him to his mother, who lives nearby.
“When the Confederates rode in, she hid them,” Hostetter said. “They didn’t find the boys, but the Confederates shot her anyway.”
The two boys were later captured by the Confederates and taken to Andersonville as prisoners of war. The white soldier survived, but the black soldier disappeared.
“It’s beautifully written, beautifully illustrated and just so sad,” she said.
If you go
What: Dig Into History with the U.S. Colored Troops
When: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 6
Where: Dover Township Community Center, 3700 Davidsburg Road, Dover Township
Details: Appropriate for children 10 years and older. Call Dover Area Community Library at 717-292-6814 with questions.