Civil War reenactor lectures American history class


Photo by Paige Harrington

Sergeant Jim Finneran presents to students the nine steps of loading a musket. Finneran served in the US Army from 1984 to 1987 at Fort Richardson, Alaska as an infantryman. “My job was to hunt and kill Russian tanks armored vehicles at that time should they ever invade North America,” Finneran said.

A civil war reenactor taught all American history classes and fired a musket without bullets on school grounds Oct. 8.

Reenactor Jim Finneran is a retired first-class sergeant with an interest in the American Civil War.

“I have always had an interest in history. I had wanted to become a Civil War Reenactor for a long time. The opportunity came when I moved to Wichita in ’95,” Finneran said.

Finneran started at the 1st Kansas Volunteers for Reenactment and has portrayed many realistic events of the Civil War.

“It’s a lot like being in the real army,” Finneran said. “Mostly, I feel a connection to the men who fought in that bloody war. It’s a way of paying my respects for their sacrifice and a way to tell their story.”

Finneran accurately shows multiple characters from the Civil War through personal research. He feels a connection with each soldier he plays.

“I try to portray as close as possible what type of soldier these men were. It takes a lot of research and study of first-hand accounts and primary documents to get just the right image,” Finneran said.

When Finneran spoke to students, he presented common Civil War items, like cartridge boxes, canteens and a musket that was fired outside of the school.

“I hope I was able to bring a little more insight into the world these soldiers live and died in, to put a more personal face to it if you will,” Finneran said.

American history teacher Joan Reichardt has known Finneran for over 20 years.

  “Back when I first started teaching, there was another guy who came in as a reenactor. 

One time he brought this new guy with him, and [the reenactor] got another job, so Sergeant Finneran just took over,” Reichardt said.

As for the firing of the musket, SRO approval was needed to allow a gun onto the school grounds.

“About the time he fired [there was] a UPS guy coming out of high school, [but] there were never any accidents. He’s never shot live rounds,” Reichardt said.

Finneran has to move out of state, but Reichardt believes he was a good teacher for the students.

“He is just a great guy, he handles our students very well,” Reichardt said. “He’s very engaging and he is just a very good presenter.”