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Londonderry sophomore has a passion for the past

Union Leader Correspondent

November 28. 2013 7:28PM
Michael Sweet, right, a sophomore at Londonderry High School, shook hands with T.J. Cullinane, commander of the Gilman E. Sleeper Camp #60, Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, moments after being inducted into the organization during a ceremony at the Kelly Library in Salem last weekend. (COURTESY)

LONDONDERRY — Not many high school sophomores can trace their ancestry back six generations — but Michael Sweet isn’t your average high school sophomore.


Last weekend, Sweet, a student at Londonderry High School, was inducted into the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Gilman E. Sleeper Camp No. 60 during a small, private ceremony at Salem’s Kelley Library.

In an organization composed of history buffs, many of them old enough to be Sweet’s grandfather, he’s by far the only member of his generation in the group.

That’s OK with Sweet, who said he’s been fascinated with all things historical for as long as he can remember.

“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in history,” Sweet said on Tuesday.

A beloved history teacher encouraged Sweet along the way.

He said an eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C., where history teacher Steve Iarocci served as his chaperone, was particularly memorable. Iarocci gave him a written recommendation for the mostly-adult heritage organization.

While many of his classmates spend their spare time in front of the computer or playing video games, Sweet admits he’s often buried in one of his several hundred-history books: Right now he’s reading biographies of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.

Having joined the Civil War Round Table of New Hampshire with his grandfather, George Hansen, some time back, he’s had plenty of time to meet folks who share his passion.

“I think it’s important to keep the stories of our forefathers alive,” said Hansen, who attends the monthly meetings in Epping with his grandson.It was through the round table that the grandson and grandfather became acquainted with a local genealogist who assisted Sweet in recovering old family archives.

Sweet, who dreams of visiting Gettysburg one day, said he’s pretty excited about his recent initiation into the camp. “I’m eager to learn and participate more,” he said. “It would be really nice if other students were more involved in learning about this great country of ours because it’s important to remember how we got here and all the sacrifices made by those before us.”

Derry resident T.J. Cullinane, commander of the camp, said he’s excited to have Sweet on board.

“Michael represents what we hope is a new and younger generation finally ready to embrace their heritage and work to ensure that the tremendous sacrifices made by their ancestors are never forgotten.”

Among the perks of having a high school student as a camp member, he added, is the unique skill set offered by one with a younger perspective.

Cullinane said Sweet is assisting the camp in establishing a new Facebook page and a Twitter account.

“Hopefully, he can pull us from the 1860s into the new millennium,” he laughed.

Sweet’s family heritage is, indeed, unique. His great-grandfather, James Robbins, was mortally wounded on his second day in the Battle of Gettysburg as he served as a Union soldier with the 19th Maine Infantry.

Sweet said he’s hoping to form a history club at his high school next year in hopes that his passion for the past might resonate with classmates.

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