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Re-enactors have stories to tell

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 April 2014 at 12:00 am

Canadians fought in the Civil War

Photos by Tom Rivers – Ken Miller of Niagara on the Lake in Canada portrays Gen. James Longstreet, a commander in Northern Virginia under director of Robert E. Lee, who called Longstreet “Old War Horse.”

For the past three days Ken Miller of Niagara on the Lake in Canada transformed in General James Longstreet. Miller was one of the most popular re-enactors at the Civil War Encampment at Medina.

He traveled down Main Street by carriage in a parade on Saturday. He also joined other generals in meeting customers at Medina diners.

Miller brewed coffee over an open fire at his camp site at the Medina GCC Campus. He welcomed conversation.

Miller can talk the finer points of combat in the Civil War. But he prefers to talk about Canada’s role in the war. Canadians had about 60,000 men in the war, including 11,500 in the Confederacy.

“Most people don’t know that,” Miller said.

He goes to about dozen Civil War Encampments each year. Many are in Canada. He is happy to cross the border and join events in the States.

“I like to teach and promote Canada’s involvement,” Miller said.

Engineers were valued for building bridges – fast

Ray Ball of West Seneca wears a slouch hat and portrays J.C. Duane, who served in the U.S. Engineers. ‘The insignia of the Engineers was a source of pride,” he said.

The Civil War soldiers traveled in huge processionals, sometimes 13 miles long with supplies, weapons and the infantry. And they were often crossing the wilderness.

The U.S. Engineers were invaluable, and they were tasked with building bridges, barracks and forts – “bridges especially,” said Ray Ball, who portrays J.C. Duane, an engineer in the war.

“It’s our job to put together bridges – very fast,” he said.

Ball is a history teacher at West Seneca. He served with the engineers in the Army about three decades ago. Many of the leading officers and generals, such as Robert E. Lee, were engineers.

“The engineers were guarded,” Duane said. “They saw very little combat.”

Duane marvels at how the engineers would use raw timber to build sturdy supports, especially for cannons that weighed 19,000 pounds.

Camaraderie for friends and family in war

Lyne Lain and her husband Harry are Confederate soldiers in the 21st Georgia.

Lyne Lain and her husband Harry Lain are in their second season traveling to encampments as Confederate soldiers. Lyne portrayed a soldier she called “Len.”

She slept in tents on chilly nights in Medina as part of this weekend’s encampment. She and her husband and their son Bill left the comforts of home to join about 100 other re-enactors in Medina.

“It doesn’t bother me, sleeping in a tent,” she said. “I enjoy these events because you meet a lot of neat people.”

Mrs. Lain cooks over an open fire and shuns modern technology, at least for a weekend.

“I’m an avid hunter,” she said. “I enjoy being a part of it.”

She and her husband own a cider mill in Canisteo in Steuben County. They also have a logging business and a dairy farm.

The Lains also host their own Civil War Encampment. This year it’s June 7-8, overlooking the Canisteo Valley.

They came to Medina for the weekend to support the encampment and welcome re-enactors and the public to their event: “The Battle at Lain’s Mill.”

“If you don’t celebrate other people’s events, they won’t come to yours,” Mr. Lain said.

Lincoln has ‘instant recognition’ with public

David Kreutz has been an Abraham Lincoln presenter since 1996. He is retired from General Motors, where he worked in production, drove a forklift and “did a little bit of everything.”

David Kreutz of Lancaster draws a crowd at Civil War re-enactments. No one is more recognizable. Kreutz has been an Abraham Lincoln presenter since 1996. He is one if 186 in the country in the Association of Lincoln Presenters.

He has attended many national events and met presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“Other than Christ, Lincoln is the most famous person,” Kreutz said. “You have instant recognition.”

Kreutz is tall like Lincoln and enjoys mingling with the crowd. On Saturday morning in Medina he visited six restaurants. He also posed for pictures in the Bent’s Opera House, which was built during the Civil War.

He rode in carriage during a parade with a re-enactor portraying General Grant.

“That was a thrill,” Kreutz said.