Features

Conquering Dreams Through the Civil War

features-civil-warThroughout our nation’s history, numerous significant events have made an impact on the way our country is today. The Revolutionary War, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, The Great Depression, World War II, September 11, and many more. Out of all of these events could the most significant event be, perhaps, the Civil War?

According to Greg Caggiano, aspiring teacher, Civil War enthusiast, and history blogger, the Civil War is just that. “It is the single defining moment where we decided as a country are we going to stay together or are we going to allow other states to secede. I take a more sympathetic approach to the south, but regardless it is still a defining moment in our nation’s history. There is no event more important than the Civil War. Revolutionary and World War II were important too, but the Civil War is where we come into our own as a country,” said Caggiano.

Ever since Greg was seven years old, he has always had a love for history, especially the Civil War. Now 14 years later, he is well onto his way into adult hood and at times can resemble a Civil War soldier with his solid build, short brown hair and scruffy beard.

This love for the Civil War has brought about many great things for Greg in the past few years. Growing up, two of his favorite movies were “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals.” One day he heard that there was going to be a director’s cut of Gods and Generals that was going to be released. This excited him greatly, as he got a keyboard from his arsenal and began to write about it on his blog, titled “From New York to San Francisco,” which had been about hockey, the New York Rangers, and the San Francisco Giants up until that point.

The word on Greg’s Civil War blog soon quickly spread, and it was noticed by the army of Warner Brothers. “Warner Brother’s actually came to me and said they’d like to have a partnership with your blog and send you the movies for free so you can review them and let your readers know what they’re all about,” said Caggiano as he attempted to light up a cigar. Following this partnership, Greg reached out to the director of both films, Ronald F. Maxwell, on Twitter. To Greg’s surprise, he responded back to him and sent him his personal e-mail so Greg can then send in questions.

A short while after Greg sent in the questions, Maxwell responded to Greg and asked him if he was going to go to the premiere of the director’s cut version of Gods and Generals in Manassas, Virginia. Caggiano thought he wasn’t going to be able to afford it, but then Maxwell told him if he can find a way to get down there, there would be two press passes waiting for him. “So I go down to Manassas and go to the theater and I went up to Warner Brother’s and told them who I was and they knew who I was and gave me a press pass and it made me feel special. It made me feel like everything I had done over the past six months was worth something,” said Caggiano with a look of accomplishment on his face.

The most memorable part of the trip Greg said is something Maxwell said to him. “We talked and he told me about my blog, and said he read an article I wrote on John Wilkes Booth, as a character understanding article and he told me that he read it and said ‘It was satisfying to see that a young mind like yourself isn’t so corrupted by the political correctness of your generation.’ He actually read my blog and didn’t just say it was good,” said Caggiano.

Since the Manassas trip, Greg has kept in contact with Maxwell, as well as several of the actors. Maxwell feeds Greg news about his next project titled Copperhead, which is about an anti-war movement in the north, where there was a group of people called Copperheads, who wanted to let the south secede. The movie is not yet in production, but Greg feels that it could happen any day now, as they are slowly making progress with the planning.

Despite all of his early journalistic success, Caggiano still has no aspirations to go into journalism as a career. Instead he continues to follow his passion to command a classroom and teach history. He gave partial credit to one of his high school history teachers, Kimberly Barber, who always impressed him with her knowledge of the subject matter. Since graduating, he has kept in contact with Barber and she has even let him come in to teach a few lessons on the Civil War to her history classes at Raritan High School. “I had him come in and do a lesson for one of my classes and he had an extreme knowledge for the topic, as he knew names, tactics, where the armies moved, etc. I felt a lot of pride watching him up there, as he was one of my students, it was cool to see someone who was as passionate as I was about history,” Barber said.

When he teaches or prepares his students for battle, I should say, he uses a lecture method, but is still engaging to his students at the same time. He makes use of humor and talks about the war, as if he was fighting on the battlefield himself. Through telling the students about the war in a story format, he is able to capture his students’ attention and win their interest.

Eddie Borodic has been in one of the classes Greg has taught as a substitute before and likes what Greg does as a teacher. “He is a really good teacher. He teaches the truth, and keeps the class intact and not crazy like any other sub would. I think Greg is one of the nicest guys possible, as he’s willing to help anyone. All in all he’s a really great teacher, and guy in general,” Borodic said.

Tyler Duminski is one of the players Greg coaches in hockey and is also one of his students. “Greg knows almost everything when it comes to the Civil War. He is a lot more loose than most of my teachers. He expands further than the average lesson. He will try and help you as much as he can with all subjects, even if he isn’t as good at them as history. He makes good descriptions if you do not understand. He also makes you feel comfortable in class,” Duminski said.

As the saying goes, history repeats itself. When asked if he thinks there could be another Civil War in the future Greg said, “In our lives no. A revolt, yeah we could see that tomorrow all it takes is one nut job and a bunch of followers to shoot a government worker forcing the army to step in. As far as a war goes no, because back then there were militias in time of war, today there are none and you’re not allowed to have one. You can’t organize an army to fight the U.S. army because you put one post on Facebook, and they know you’re doing it. So there’s no way to have organized thousand man conflict,” Caggiano said.

Wherever his career path leads him, Greg will always be able to look back and see that hard work and passion go a long way. If he goes about teaching the way he did about the Civil War blog, who’s to say he won’t find conquer the armies of his dreams and become a teacher? Many people believe Greg has what it takes to be a teacher, and be a great one. Gorman is one of these believers. “I hate to repeat myself but passion and the ability to inspire others is a crucial attribute for a teacher – and for an artist. I don’t think his students will be bored and they might even get the bug to learn more just by taking one of Greg’s classes. That’s my suspicion anyway. As long as he remains open, flexible and passionate, he’ll go far,” said Gorman.

PHOTO COURTESY of Brett Bodner