Attention-getting lesson

St. Edmond students got to marvel at the Civil War as it was re-enacted before their eyes Friday.

The Second Battery Iowa Light Artillery visited the school’s elementary classrooms to teach students about that war and life during those years. The six re-enactors, all in period costume, included four men and two women.

Fred Kesten, a Fort Dodge resident, is a longtime re-enactor.

“I got interested in Civil War in 1991, and got involved in re-enacting in 1993,” Kesten said. “Once it’s in your blood, you can’t get rid of it.”

Each re-enactor brought an area of expertise on the Civil War, including Kesten.

“I’ve been talking about the southern perspective and the causes of war,” he said, “and the economic power conflicts between the Northern states and Southern states from the time of the forming of the Constitution up to the Civil War.”

Lindsay Reicks, a teacher at St. Edmond, said having the re-enactors in her class was “amazing.”

“The kids learn so much when they are able to see artifacts and hear people talking who have a bigger knowledge base of what the Civil War was like,” she said. “Being able to see it really brings it to life for the kids.”

Students learned about women’s roles during the war, camp medicine, camp life, machinery, artillery and guns, and also what it was like to be a soldier. All important topics, Reicks said.

“Any time you have the chance to bring history to life for kids, I think that’s an opportunity you have to take,” she said. “These are all skills that they can learn from and it is an experience they will remember.”

Kesten conveyed to the students the importance of the war to the nation’s history.

What most excited the students, however, was seeing a real cannon, a 3-inch ordnance rifle, fired on the school football field.

“(It’s) made accurately to blueprints from the era,” Kesten said. “The tube was taken to an iron shop in Audubon and the wheels, we had them made in Tennessee. It’s a replica of the real thing.”

The St. Edmond students shrieked with its boom and shouted, “That was awesome!” Their cheers continued as smoke washed over them with a smell described as being like “rotten eggs.”

Fired three times, the cannon used blanks as it is illegal to use a projectile, Kesten said.

Kesten said he enjoys speaking to students.

“I like educating them when they’re still full of mush,” he said, “to give them the things the history books aren’t going to tell them.”