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Civil War re-enactors present program to North Hall students

POSTED: March 26, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Robin Michener Nathan/The Times

On Friday morning, Confederate re-enactor Jerry Bryan shows a group of North Hall Middle students a replica of a knife used in the Civil War.

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GAINESVILLE — North Hall Middle School eighth-graders got a preview of next week’s planned field trip to historic stops in Georgia, thanks to a pair of Civil War enthusiasts.

Jerry Bryan of Gainesville and Brett Martin of Cumming talked with students about flags and uniforms, showed them artifacts of bullets and eating utensils and, to the group’s utter delight, fired period weapons into the sky.

"We feel like they can get a better lesson through this," Martin said.

"Reading out of a book is boring, but seeing it and touching it, getting a little bit of an experience of it, I think is the best way to educate."

History teacher Tim Lawson said, "This all goes together as part of a Civil War unit (now being presented to students). It’s an introduction to our field trip next week."

Some 130 students are scheduled for a Wednesday through Friday trip to the Andersonville National Historic Site and Old Fort Jackson and the Fort Pulaski National Monument in the Savannah area.

The demonstrations by Bryan and Martin, who are Sons of Confederate Veterans members, served as "an introduction to the field trip," Lawson said.

The two men, dressed in Confederate uniforms, had set up a mock Civil War camp site off a shelter near the school’s scenic Wildlife Sanctuary. They displayed Confederate flags and showed off knives and artifacts, including bullets that soldiers used to bite to get a sweet taste as they sat around a campfire.

The students hardly moved, except to get a better view, as they listened to the men’s presentations.

But they stood with cameras in hand and drew closer as Bryan and Martin fired their rifles, then reloaded and fired again.

One of the students, Tana Ledford, said afterward that she thought the demonstrations were "cool."

"It must have been hard (for the soldiers) staying in tents and not having much to do," she said.

Zac Nix said the event "taught me how much the rebels changed their flags."

Bryan, who works in construction, and Martin, who works in poultry, respectively, said they not only present for schools — they visited Chestatee Middle School in northwest Hall on Thursday — but also march in parades and take part in re-enactments.

"Some people like to deer hunt, some people like to fish. We love to re-enact," Martin said. "It ain’t just because it’s a hobby. It’s ... a passion."

Added Bryan, "It’s a hobby I’ve never got tired of."



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