Seventh-grade students watched history come alive recently during Civil War Living History Day at Palombi Middle School in Lake Villa.
This is the third year for the event organized by the Lake Villa Historical Society and the Palombi PTO. It featured re-enactors representing Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, a Civil War surgeon, and a Union spy.
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The students listened as President Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd, played by Max and Donna Daniels of Wheaton, explained how the country was torn apart over the issue of slavery.
"It is a great alternative way to teach history," explained Max Daniels as he wore his black stovepipe hat. "It is another way to get the children's attention. They asked great questions. It is a fun project for students who are very knowledgeable and are very interested."
Helen Milam portrayed Union spy Pauline Cushman and discussed the tragedies she experienced that lead to her becoming a spy, and the necessity of spies during the war.
The most gruesome of the demonstrations came when Perry Brusenbach of Lake Villa re-enacted several surgical procedures used on the battlefields, before the knowledge of sterile modern practices. Blood spilled out as Brusenbach used a dirty, rusty saw to "amputate" the leg of a seventh-grader while students gasped and hid their eyes.
"I was freaked out by everything because the blood was squirting out everywhere," exclaimed seventh-grader Maggie Gajowik about the simulated surgery. "He was taking a normal knife that we use at home and was cutting through the leg. I thought it was really impressive that he did that."
In the end, it was widely acknowledged that the event was a great success and a wonderful way to learn about the history of the Civil War.
"At first I thought it was going to be boring and that it was just another school thing and that I wasn't going to like it," acknowledged Arianna Ibarra, 13. "But then I came and I learned a lot and it was also fun. Going into class can be boring and this is a lot better. Actually, people who don't normally pay attention were excited and asking questions."