With the boom of the cannon and the crack of the musket, history came to life in Stange’s Park Friday as Prairie River Middle School held its 18th annual Civil War Day.
The eighth grade American History class ends each school year with a unit on the American Civil War. Civil War Day brings together reenactors and experts on that time period in American history to give students hands-on experience in what life was like during the American Civil War.
“I want students to have an appreciation for what the average American had to do during a pretty rough stretch in our history,” said PRMS history teacher Scott Boesel, who started Civil War Day 18 years ago. “Americans didn’t know if the nation was going to survive that. I want them to appreciate what a common person lived through back then.”
Students are assigned to represent Union or Confederate regiments and are encouraged to dress the part. Students are chosen by their history teachers to lead their regiments and the students practice basic marching in preparation for Civil War Day.
At the event, students pass through nine station, several staffed by Civil War reenactors. Stations include common camp life, rifle drill, Union surgeon, civilians during the war, social manners and dance, ethnic music, small arms, advanced drill and the firing of an authentic Civil War era cannon.
Eighth grade band students provided fife and drum music as well as a brass band playing popular songs from the era.
Through his initial research for Civil War Day, Boesel himself was inspired to join the 2nd Wisconsin reenacting group. Members of that group help provide the education on Civil War Day.
“Civil War Day is older than my reenacting,” Boesel said. “I met reenactors when this event started. They recruited me.”
The cannon, provided by the 8th Wisconsin Light Infantry, is a popular station at Civil War Day. The barrel of the cannon is original, dating to 1853. During the demonstrations, the cannon fires a half-pound of black powder. But, instead of a six-pound steel ball, the powder is packed in with a bag of oatmeal.