Carl Sandburg Middle School students ‘have a blast’ learning about Civil War


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OLD BRIDGE – A few hundred seventh graders outside of Carl Sandburg Middle School in Old Bridge cupped their ears as a blast of sound a burst of smoke and orange glow shot out of the circa-1893 cannon, echoing off the buildings.

Christine Bracken, a social studies teacher at the school, and the main coordinator of the event, cheered after firing the first cannon shot, under the guidance of Jeff Cohen and his group of Civil War reenactors from the 6th New York Independent Battery.

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Evidence of the Civil War are still evident in a dent on the cannon – a scar from a battlefield Confederate cannon ball hit, according to information provided by Scott Mazzella, public relations coordinator for Old Bridge Township Public Schools.

These days, the cannon is used for group demonstrations.

Firing the cannon and a show of Civil War rifleman ship is the grand finale to the school’s annual Civil War Day. Joining the 6th New York were reenactors from the 14th New Jersey and 4th New Jersey volunteer infantries who came to the school in full Civil War-era regalia, from navy blue wool Union uniforms and gray Confederate ones, complete with period-correct badging and brass buttons, to multi-layer hoop dresses and lacey bonnets.

Many of Sandburg’s teachers wore 19th century attire to help get the students into the Civil War spirit.

The regiment members even brought their equipment – from tents to weapons, and more – and set up on school grounds, turning a soccer field into a Civil War encampment, according to the statement.

The immersive-learning day began with a performance by the school orchestra, who played music inspired by Civil War history or films about it.

Seventh grade students then spent the day going from class to class, inside and outside the school, with reenactors or history teachers leading each mini course, all having to do with life in that era of the nation’s history. There was a course on Civil War medicine and battlefield medical care. Students learned firsthand what “dressing to the nines” meant back then – nine layers of clothing, which a few student volunteers tried on over their modern attire. Students tossed 19th century toy hoops in the field outside, while others learned how to properly march, or how a soldier properly held their rifle, according to the statement.

Douglas Mount of the 14th New Jersey has been role playing for education for over two decades.

“These kids are the best part,” Mount said in the statement, “because the learn. They need to learn this all firsthand. This period of time is an important part of our history.”

Many adults joined the festivities as well, including school board members Theresa Burns and Jay Slade, and Mayor Owen Henry.


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