Medina Civil War Encampment provides public education

Posted 27 April 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Sue Cook – General Grant of the Union army (left of kneeling man) poses with soldiers by the campfire. Grant is wearing his combat attire which is much simpler than his dress uniform. The photograph is sepia tone to emulate the style of photography from the period. Tintypes were common because they were sturdier than glass plates and were quick to develop. The soldiers in the photograph are from the 28th and 104th NY Volunteer Infantries, as well as the 9th NY Volunteer Cavalry Company B.

By Sue Cook, staff reporter

MEDINA – Throughout Saturday, guests at the Medina GCC campus were invited to participate in the Civil War encampment. All over the surrounding field, soldiers set up camps and even a sutler popped up selling Victorian era clothing. The campus provided space for visitors to hear about the time period and to ask questions.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Marshall of the 21st Georgia (Scott Hoffmeier of Rochester), left, and General James P. Longstreet of the 21st Mississippi (Ken Miller of Ontario, Canada) pose for a portrait after their success in Saturday’s mock battle. When asked how they captured the win, Longstreet quoted General Robert E. Lee. “We will prevail.”

Miller said he started out enjoying all periods of history as a member of a history roundtable. He found that he greatly enjoyed learning about Victorian times and enjoyed participating in Civil War events. He feels his influence stems from his childhood.

“My grandma bought me little plastic soldiers. John Wayne probably influenced me, too,” Miller said.

Abraham Lincoln came to the encampment after appearing in the parade. Lincoln is portrayed by David Kreutz of Lancaster, who became a member of the Association of Lincoln Presenters in 1996.

Soldiers were more than happy to be approached by visitors and asked questions. Many soldiers are very well versed in the Civil War and have purchased or hand made their own uniforms. Most uniforms are correct all the way down to the woolen socks.

Vaughn Weston spent the weekend as Colonel Madison of the Louisiana Light Artillery. He poses with one of the cannons he fired on the battlefield.

Weston was very enthusiastic about participating. “I’ve been doing this since 1961 when I was 9 years old,” he said. “What got me interested was that they came out with bubblegum packs with these gory Civil War cards.”

The cards showed soldiers in uniform, but also images of the wounded and dead. He said the cards were very similar to baseball cards that most other kids preferred.

To add more realism to the event, the soldiers also are welcomed to camp out in their pup tents overnight. Despite the cold, wet weather, many stayed the night and reported that they were dry and well rested after sleeping between wool blankets.

Private Max Todd  from Geneseo, a member of the 28th Volunteer Infantry, rests in his tent and eats lunch. Among his possessions are his rifle, canteen and ammunition bag.

After being asked why there was a random pin with a looped end stuck in his cap, Todd explained that it was called a nipple pin and was used for cleaning the portion of the gun that the wing-tip firing cap rests on.

“Everything serves a purpose,” Todd said. No matter how small the item, everything the troops brought to battle was important in some way, even if it doesn’t seem obvious.

“There’s always so much to learn,” he said.

From left: Rudy Coumont, Kim Fontana and Sue Cifaldi play the fife. Ken Barlow is playing the drum. The group played songs for the crowd including Yankee Doodle and the Rogue’s March.

“Bugles supplanted the fife and drum,” lamented Barlow. “A bugle could be played on horseback with one hand.”

Barlow says that fife and drum players are becoming very rare, and even bugles are being phased out by played back digital recordings.

Encampment Coordinator Derek Maxfield, left, asks questions to Bill Kauffman, the screenplay writer of the film “Copperhead.” Kauffman lives in Elba.

In the evening, the campus screened the film “Copperhead,” directed by Ron Maxwell. The film follows the story of upstate New York farmer Abner Beech and his family during the war. Beech wanted to remain a pacifist and was harassed by his neighbors for his choice.

At the end of the Q&A with Kauffman, Liz Guthrie, an employee of a Webster high school, stood up to share her appreciation of the film.

“For high school students today, it seems to enhance their experience,” she said. “Students are using these films to learn about history.”

She applauded Maxwell’s other films for providing students with different insights of the Civil War.

Sunday’s events will include the battle at 2 p.m. Also scheduled are demonstrations and talks including field medicine, candle making, mortuary arts, music, meetings with the generals and more. The camps are also open to the public who can walk among the tents, meet the soldiers and see them in a realistic camp setting.