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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Civil War salute

George Ranney of Detriot MI, and other members of the Confederate Army attach their bayonets to their muskets just prior to Sundays battle in the Civil War reenactment at Shoaf Park.

Re-enactors give glimpse into soldier's life

Friday, June 3, 2011 - 12:01 am

Two Civil War re-enacting groups will be “camping out” at Lindenwood Cemetery this weekend in an effort to educate visitors about hometown heroes.

The second annual Civil War Encampment and Living History Weekend is 8 a.m. to sunset Saturday and Sunday.

The 44th Indiana Civil War Historical Association and the 30th Indiana Volunteer Infantry will demonstrate soldier and civilian life, interact with the public and answer questions.

“Last year for our 150th Lindenwood ceremony we talked about doing an encampment over the weekend, and it worked out really well,” said Lindenwood Cemetery general manager Thomas Pehlke. “As soon as that was over they said they'd be back to do it again, and we certainly wanted them to come back.”

This year's encampment will portray many aspects of military camp life, including medical treatments, wool spinning and making children's toys.

Mike Clay, of the 44th Indiana Civil War Historical Association, believes last year's encampment was “very rewarding.”

“It was a new experience, camping in a cemetery,” Clay said. “We were able to pay honors to several of the original members of the 44th Indiana by doing small services at their gravesites. We were very grateful for the opportunity that Lindenwood offered us.”

Clay became interested in the Civil War at a young age.

“I grew up reading about the war and visiting the battlefields and other historic sites,” said Clay, who has 39 years of re-enacting experience.

“In 1971, I located a group in Fort Wayne that was primarily a parade unit, but was portraying Company D, 5th Indiana Cavalry. I joined them, bought a horse, learned to ride and started re-enacting. After a few years, I changed my impression to that of an infantry soldier and have done that ever since.”

With a small group of veteran re-enactors, Clay helped found the 44th Indiana Civil War Historical Association in spring 2005.

“We chose the 44th Indiana because they were organized at Camp Allen in Fort Wayne,” Clay said. “We are a historical association because our group includes the infantry, civilians, artillery, navy, sanitary commission and medical impressions. All are interested in the Civil War.”

According to Russ Gilliom of the 30th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, the 30th Indiana and the 44th Indiana were once the same re-enacting unit, and they have divided and reunited several times since they were founded. The 30th Indiana was initially founded in November 1992.

Both groups focus on historically accurate portrayals of the Civil War era from 1861 to 1865. They do living-history demonstrations, battle re-enactments, camp life, military drills and parades usually within a two- or three-hour radius of Fort Wayne.

This weekend, they will demonstrate soldier life through artillery drills and firing, bayonet exercises, skirmish drills, camp inspection, muster for pay, and dinner and mail calls. For the artillery activities, the groups will be using model 1853 Enfield rifles manufactured in England, according to Gilliom.

“At the beginning of the Civil War there were very few arms available, so many of the units early in the war were issued Enfield rifles from England, as were the Confederates,” Gilliom said. He explained that at the beginning of the war the Confederates captured the equipment to make firearms from Harpers Ferry, W.Va., took it down south and manufactured their own firearms. They were still buying Enfield rifles, however. It wasn't until about 1863 when the U.S. began producing Springfield rifles.

Along with the weaponry drills and military re-enacting, the groups also will have period cooking, period attire, naval demonstrations and medical displays.

“Our medical officer was there (last year), and he had a really nice display of medical instruments,” Gilliom said. “He talked about what it was like to be treated during the Civil War, which was a little scary, but it was interesting.

“People would have their knapsacks spread out and say this is what a typical solider would have carried — maybe dried coffee beans, peanuts, dried meat, a blanket. That was about it. It would kind of give you a feel of what it was like to be in the Civil War.”

Both the 30th Indiana and the 44th Indiana impersonate average citizen soldiers who left their farms to defend the Union.

“Many of them were just regular people,” Gilliom said. “They were basically all farmers. Most of the soldiers from the Civil War were 23 years old or younger, so some of them were married and some of them weren't. I would love to just sit around a campfire and listen to their discussions on why they're there, why they're fighting, their feelings on being away from home, and what it was like for them when a loved one had died from illness or was killed in battle.”

Lindenwood Cemetery holds a special meaning for the men of both the 30th Indiana and the 44th Indiana because it is the gravesite of many infantry veterans. Sadly, most of the men died from treatable conditions such as diarrhea and scorbutus, or scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency.

On Memorial Day in 2009, the 44th Indiana dedicated a monument to Colonel Hugh B. Reed, who was the first colonel of the original 44th Indiana and was never given a marker to acknowledge his service.

“There are, as best we can tell at this time, 26 members of the original 44th Indiana buried in Lindenwood Cemetery,” Clay said. “This includes the first colonel, Col. Hugh B. Reed, the second colonel, Col. William Williams, the last lieutenant colonel, Lt. Col. Philip Grund and many others of various ranks.”

Honoring their legacy, the 30th Indiana and 44th Indiana re-enactors hope to teach younger generations about the sacrifices these men made to preserve American unity.

“Each one of the people in this group has a specialty area — whether it be battles or personalities or lifestyles or a certain event or firearms or cooking,” Gilliom said.

“Several members of our group have master's degrees. They're a bunch of sharp, educated people who want to celebrate their history and honor historical figures. It's very entertaining just to talk to them. I hope the public can come out and feel free to interact. We love interaction. We love answering questions.”

Experience Civil War life

What: A living history encampment at Lindenwood Cemetery presented by two local Civil War re-enactor groups, the 44th Indiana Civil War Historical Association and the 30th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. The public is invited to come out and mingle with the re-enactors.

Where: Lindenwood Cemetery, 2324 W. Main St.

When: 8 a.m. to sunset Saturday and Sunday.