PORTLAND – Glen Lawson’s order — “Quiet in the ranks!” — was no match for about 140 chattering eighth-graders gathered on the lawn outside Lincoln Middle School.

It didn’t phase Lawson, one of three Civil War re-enactors who were at the school Thursday as part of a social studies lesson on the Civil War.

As “Capt. Lawson” of Company A of the 3rd Maine Regiment Volunteer Infantry, he lined the students up shoulder-to-shoulder, in two rows, and attempted some marching drills.

After several tries, the students started to catch on.

“It’s fun! I almost really felt like I was part of the unit in the Civil War,” said 14-year-old Leo Hilton.

Over the course of the day’s lesson, Lawson and the other re-enactors, Pvt. George Peterson and Cpl. David Gowen, gave a brief history of Maine’s role in the Civil War, explained how to load a musket and described the various formations that Civil War soldiers would have used.

Social studies teachers Todd Day and Sue Wilson arranged for the re-enactors to visit the school as the culmination of a three-week course on the Civil War. It was the first time they had invited re-enactors, they said.

Company A of the 3rd Maine Regiment Volunteer Infantry is a nonprofit educational group devoted to teaching about and remembering Maine’s involvement in the Civil War. Through re-enactments and educational outreach, the group educates others about the life of Maine soldiers and civilians from 1861 to 1865.

“It was designed to give students an opportunity to learn about life in America during a pivotal and crucial time of growth, social change and personal sacrifice during the Civil War,” Day said. “This makes the past come to life.”

Christina Taylor, 14, said she liked the program: “It’s easier to learn when it’s hands-on.”

The re-enactors described their historically accurate uniforms — made of heavy wool — as they stood in the sun in Thursday’s 90-degree heat.

“We are living historians,” Lawson said.

Gowen told the students that, just like soldiers in the Civil War, the volunteers in their re-enactment group have other jobs. Gowen is a certified public accountant in Westbrook, Peterson is a student who will attend the University of Maine in the fall and Lawson is a chemistry professor at Bates College in Lewiston.

Day said he wanted to bring the Civil War to life and let the students see what happened.

At the end, Lawson led the group in three rounds of rousing cheers to the Union, of “Hip! Hip! Hooray!”

Staff Writer Ellie Cole can be contacted at 791-6359 or at:

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