The Red Badge of Talmadge

Honor, glory and amputations -- students get a taste of the Civil War


Civil War enthusiasts Jerry Eckert, Jack Bentley and Fred Leach prepare to fire a cannon during the presentation at Talmadge Middle School.

INDEPENDENCE -- In some schools, students complain about heavy course loads.

Not at Talmadge Middle School. There, students don't even blink as bullets are pried from under their skin.

And that's without anesthetics.

Talmadge eighth-graders capped off their Civil War unit with presentations by the Northwest Civil War Council, a volunteer group that re-creates the spirit of the war.

Six presenters showed off the weapons, supplies and foodstuffs of the era.

They dressed in Confederate and Union uniforms, trading tongue-in-cheek yankee and rebel barbs.

The primitive surgery of the war -- demonstrated on another student -- fascinated student Tara Jones.

"I liked what they did to his arm when they sawed it off," she said.

"You really know how it was like, instead of just reading about it."

"It's a lot more interesting seeing real people," agreed student Dustin Church. "They really know what they're talking about."

But he didn't share Jones' excitement for war medicine. "It's a sickening thought to know that many fingers were amputated."

(More fingers than the number in an entire middle school.)

Clark hadn't realized the array of weaponry available during the 1860s. "I didn't think they went through all those different guns," he said. "It's really surprising."

Students got more than a glance when the troops demonstrated their rifles in front of the school. "They show the sounds and smells of the Civil War," said Principal Beau Horn.

"Some of these kids have never smelled gunpowder before."

The entire Talmadge regiment waited with covered ears for the grand finale -- firing a giant naval cannon.

"There's about a pound of powder in there," Horn said. "That thing is loud.

"To think of all those going off at the same time -- that's pretty real life."

Although the blinding smoke and thunderous blasts come close to the real thing, don't expect to find a cannonball in Ash Creek anytime soon.

"They use everything but the bullets," Church explained.


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