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Civil War reenactors visit Kelly Mill Elementary
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Michael Dean and Michael McAlpin of the local Hiram Parks Bell Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans spoke to fifth graders at Kelly Mill Elementary on Friday. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

A group of Forsyth County students learned an explosive lesson this week.

Fifth graders at Kelly Mill Elementary School gathered behind the school Friday morning to hear from Michael Dean and Michael McAlpin of the local Hiram Parks Bell Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The two answered questions in Civil War-era-appropriate uniforms with supplies, weapons and a cannon, which they, of course, shot off.

“I don’t know if anyone’s noticed, but there’s this great big cannon sitting right behind you,” McAlpin told students. “It’s called a 10-pound Parrot rifle. It is kind of an interesting piece. It has a range, if you’re just firing in a flat line, of just about one mile.

“If you fire it at maximum elevation, as far as you can, it has a range of just over three miles.”

Teacher Jessica Molter, who helped shoot the cannon, said she learned about the weapons when the group performed last year, which led to a strange question for administration.

“When they were here last year, they were like, ’We have muskets that we can fire,’ but I hadn’t thought about that and it was too late,” she said. “I thought about it this year, and so I asked my principal if it would be alright for me to fire a cannon in the back of the school, and he said yes.”

While the cannon may have been the most visible — and audible — part of the presentation, the reenactors covered everything from food, clothing and tools used by soldiers to local involvement in the war.

“In Forsyth County, they issued a levy. A levy was when they start to draft people into the army,” McAlpin said. “Forsyth County raised a lot of … companies, including the one that Kelly Mill Elementary School is named after. It was in a group called the Cherokee Legion based in this area.”

Molter said students have been studying the war recently and could see the day captured their attention.

“They’re definitely going to remember this with the cannon [demonstration],” she said. “At Kelly Mill, we’re big into projects and letting them explore things like that. They’re doing a museum this afternoon, and I heard mine going up and asking questions about the person they’re doing their museum on and if they could tell them more about it.

“Actually seeing it and seeing people do it in real life and this is their life, it means a lot more than seeing it in a … video or reading it in a text book. It’s just not the same, for sure.”