Civil War revisited

Published 4:50 pm Saturday, May 9, 2009

Austin freshmen and sophomores, along with Southland eighth-graders, got a unique experience through the state-mandated integration collaborative between the two districts — and it included cannons, rifles, marching in formation and a lesson in American history.

Students from the two schools met Friday in Adams Park to learn more closely about the Civil War, primarily what it was like to fight in the America’s costliest war in terms of lives lost.

They were drilled, they were shown how to load Civil War era muskets, but most importantly they were taught to work together. And what better way than the structured discipline of military maneuvers to help reinforce that.

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“This gets kids from Southland to get to know kids from Austin,” Southland history and social studies teacher Bill Feuchtenberger said.

Feuchtenberger, a Civil War reenactor, brought in several other reenactors to help put the students through the drills.

“In order for them to do this correctly, it takes an awful lot of discipline,” Feuchtenberger said.

Students were broken into three groups and sent to different areas; one would learn close-order drilling; the second, field marching; and the third learned how to fire Civil War weapons — all firing blanks, of course.

Arik Andersen, a teacher at Austin High School, sees the benefit of not only working as a team, but the up-close history education as well.

“This is fantastic for my students,” he said as he watched a group of Southland and Austin students drill under the watchful eye of reenactor Vince Bergdale of Albert Lea, a first sergeant with the Fifth Minnesota Company C regiment of reenactors.

“It’s a situation where you have to use teamwork with people they don’t know,” he said. “And you learn stuff better when it’s in context,” he said.

A third benefit is the continued eduction Feuchtenberger hopes will pay off in the end, and a trip back to Adams for the Civil War reenactment during the town’s annual Dairy Days.

“My hope is a lot of these kids will take their parents to Dairy Days,” Feutchenberger said. “That they will come back to see the whole thing working as one.”