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franklin county times

Students learn about war

The dew still hung onto the blades of grass as the soldiers unpacked their gear on the hillside.

They sent up their canvas tents and lit a fire in the lantern that sat on a rickety wooden table someone had brought along. One soldier laid out blankets to rest their weapons on to keep them protected from the damp earth.

The rebel flag flew from a makeshift flagpole and knives, rifles and handguns were kept close at hand in case any Yanks tried to sneak up on their camp.

This description sounds like something that took place 150 years ago near the Shiloh battlefield but it was in fact the scene just outside Russellville High School on Tuesday.

This past week, students at Russellville High School got out of the classroom and experienced living history right in front of them when a group of Civil War re-enactors from the 6th Alabama Division Calvary acted out the things the students had been studying this school year.

Lt. Col. Norman Lier, who is over the JROTC program at RHS, said he contacted the group about coming to the high school so he could prepare the students for the upcoming field trip to the Shiloh battlefield in Tennessee.

“I just wanted to set the stage for these students so they would have the chance to really see how soldiers lived back then and what they endured on the battlefield,” Lier said. “I thought it would help them appreciate the things they saw on the field trip more if they could get a good visual image of what it would have been like in those days.”

Cpl. Keith Fisher said the re-enactment is based on a documentary produced by the History Channel called “Life of the foot soldier.” It showcases the lives of Billy Yank (U.S. soldiers) and Johnny Reb (Confederate soldiers) and the conditions they lived in during the Civil War.

The group of re-enactors included Fisher; his son, Trooper Ryan Fisher; and his daughter, Trooper Melissa Fisher, all from Greenhill; and Trooper Steven Cagle from Hueytown. They brought authentic props that made the scene transform from a hillside by the driver’s ed range to a hillside overlooking a battlefield and they wore uniforms that look like the same ones donned by troops in 1861.

Fisher said he and his family have been involved in re-enacting for many years because it’s something they enjoy, but it is also something they feel very convicted about.

“This is our American history that needs to be taught,” Fisher said. “Each time we go to a school I pray that we can reach out to kids ins a way that they can feel what I feel in my heart – that they can truly embrace these stories of Americans who fought in this war so long ago because if you truly embrace it, you’ll really value the things you have in your life now.”

Lier said the re-enactment not only helped the students better understand the background information for their field trip but it also served as a great learning tool.

“Anytime you can get the kids out of the classroom and into an interactive environment, I think they learn more,” Lier said. “There is only so much a book can really tell you, but to get out there and really see it and experience it can be an eye-opening experience.

“I think this is something that will stick with these kids for a long time to come, and we appreciate this group for coming out and bringing living history to our students.”