Historical figures came to life Wednesday for fifth- and sixth-grade students at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
President Abraham Lincoln and Maj. Gen. Dan Sickles - also known as Jeff Bloomquist of Jamestown and Greg Johnson of Frewsburg, respectively - spoke to the students at the school during two one-hour presentations, giving the youngsters a visual experience of the Civil War era.
''The fifth-grade curriculum includes sectionalism, Civil War and Reconstruction,'' Tom Langworthy, a fifth-grade teacher at Jefferson, said. ''Right now we're in a unit focusing on the Civil War and as the war ended. It was the perfect time for Jeff to come in and talk about Abraham Lincoln.''
President Abraham Lincoln, as portrayed by Jamestown’s Jeff Bloomquist, walks toward the stage to ‘‘Hail to the Chief’’ during a presentation Wednesday at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
Bloomquist, a Vietnam veteran who has been portraying Lincoln for nearly 20 years, gave a speech to the students detailing Lincoln's life. He also gave a reading of Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address to the students in attendance.
Langworthy said Bloomquist has been a friend of his family for a long time, and that Bloomquist jumped at the idea when Langworthy approached him about speaking to his students.
''We're fortunate we have someone as knowledgeable at Jeff right here in Jamestown who can come in and help kids learn about history for free, just because he likes to do it and is interested in helping kids out,'' Langworthy said.
Johnson, a friend of Bloomquist who has been involved in Civil War re-enactments for many years, portrayed Maj. Gen. Sickles - a Union general who preceded Ulysses S. Grant. Sickles' combat career came to an end at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he lost his right leg to a cannonball.
''He's friends with Jeff, so Jeff sort of wanted to bring him along,'' Langworthy said. ''I thought it was a great idea, and it exposes kids to some of the historical aspects of American history that they may not have known.''
Langworthy said his students were awed to see the 16th President of the United States coming down auditorium aisle to the stage while ''Hail to the Chief'' played over the loudspeakers.
''When he comes in looking as much like Abe Lincoln as he does, I think it's really eye-opening to kids,'' he said. ''It gives them a visual perspective, which is much more important than reading it in a book. It's a real-life experience.''