HAMMOND | About 50 East Chicago school children received a lesson Friday in the stories of Northwest Indiana men who fought — and in some cases died — in our nation's bloodiest war in history.

The students from East Chicago's Field Education Center received a free field trip tour of the Region United, Nation Divided: Civil War in the South Shore exhibit Friday morning at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond.

The free exhibit — open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — incorporates hundreds of photos, artifacts, narrative text and battle flag reproductions to tell the actual stories of Lake, Porter and LaPorte county men and women who sacrificed during the war.

Field Education Center took advantage of the first of several free field trips being offered to region schools by the South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail.

The Field students were able to view actual war-time items including bayonets carried by region soldiers, hats and a drum that belonged to Valparaiso drummer boy Winfield Brewer, who was 14 when he served in his father's unit during the 1861-65 war.

They also learned the stories of Crown Point's Col. John Wheeler, who died at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, and Valparaiso's Col. Isaac Suman, who was shot twice at the Battle of Stones River in 1862 but kept on commanding his men.

The field trip ended with an interactive quiz — cannon sound effects included — covering what the students had learned.

The Region United, Nation Divided exhibit opened April 6 and initially was scheduled to run through May 3. However, the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority extended the exhibit to run through June 30 because of popular demand.

The exhibit's special activities continue at 1:30 p.m. Saturday with the viewing of the film, "To Ride the River," a seven-minute short film created by Lakes of the Four Seasons filmmaker Tre Manchester.

Set in the region just after the Civil War, it uses a dramatized example to show some the issues people on the home front dealt with after losing loved ones in the Civil War. Manchester will give a short presentation about making the film, and local actors who played roles in it will answer questions.

The presentation and film viewing will be in the Welcome Center auditorium.