Youngsters between 6-14 can be recognized as Junior Civil War Historians by visiting national parks in the Southeast.
Since the early 1960s the National Park Service's Junior Ranger Program has helped children become better acquainted with national parks.
This new program, "the brainchild of Ranger Jim Lewis at Stones River (in Murfreesboro, Tenn.)" is "something that connects with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War," said Kim Coons, supervisor for Interpretation and Education at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.
Since January, nine national military parks are cooperating in this program designed to encourage visits to Civil War sites and learn about that war fought 150 years ago.
Lewis said the program is intended to show the overarching interconnectedness of the social, political and economic events - not just battles - during the Civil War era.
This program is a way to encourage families to see more than a single park during this four-year Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration, he said.
Lewis said the parks committed to this Junior Civil War Historian program had their own Junior Ranger programs. Already, other parks and historic sites have expressed an interest in joining this consortium and having the program continue beyond the sesquicentennial.
For more information about programs at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, contact the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center at (706) 866-9241, the Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center at (423) 821-7786, or visit the park's website.
"We all want to encourage the public to learn about our nation's heritage," he said.
Children ages 6 and older can earn a special patch by completing the programs at three of the participating parks or by visiting two parks and completing special online activities.
Coons said questions are specific to each park and to different age groups, but it takes at least "a couple of hours" to complete the activities for each site.
"More kids should come out and learn about the Civil War history that occurred in their own backyard," she said.
During their trips, visitors have the opportunity to explore how the Civil War impacted the lives of everyone in America then and how that conflict still affects us as a people today.
Some of the questions Junior Civil War Historians can answer for themselves while they earn their special patch include, Why did they fight? What was it like to be in the middle of a Civil War battle? How did civilians cope with the destruction of war? How did enslaved people seize their opportunities to gain, and sometimes fight for, their freedom?
"We were surprised that to be the first park to give out a patch," Coons said. "It went to a young man, Joel Hunt, who lives on Lookout Mountain."
Last week, a second patch was awarded to a 7-year-old from Marietta, Ga., who visited Kennesaw and Chickamauga and completed one of the online activities, Coons said.
It seems appropriate that the nation's first military park, Chickamauga and Chattanooga, not only issued the first patch but that the patch features a landmark from its battlefields.
"The patch is of the two soldiers atop the New York Peace Memorial at Point Park on Lookout Mountain," Coons said.