BATH — It was the philosopher George Santayana who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Thankfully, the greatest danger for visitors to the Hale Farm and Village Civil War Reenactment was a history lesson through participation.
More than 750 actors gathered on the historic grounds of Hale Farm and Village Aug. 12 and 13 to fight the Battle of Port Republic, which took place June 9, 1862, in Rockingham County, Va. Many of the “regiments” recruited for soldiers from the 6,500 attendees.
“Civil War buff or not, the reenactment is an amazing opportunity to experience our nation’s history,” said Catherine Sterle of Hale Farm. “When guests walk through the camps and see the representation of how the soldiers lived and fought, in canvas tents, cooking over open flames, loading riffles, completing drills and disciplines — there is a newfound understanding and appreciation for the people who fought.”
Visitors were encouraged to interact with the soldiers and civilian reenactors, she said.
Josh Wales of Urbana was a captain of Co. I in the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
Wales said he has a love of history. Twenty years ago, he attended a demonstration and was hooked.
The 66th fought with 29th, 5th and 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry regiments during the battle of Port Republic, Wales said.
“They were on the extreme left [flank],” Wales said. “Their job was to guard the battery of artillery before they were driven off the field with the rest of the army.”
Wales said Civil War soldiers had to have the courage to march away from home in 1861 and 1862 and the flexibility to adapt and stay in the field for a lengths of time.
Danny Boyett of Akron was in the 29th OVI and was accompanied by his daughter, Jolena Boyett. They have been reenactors for four years and became involved through a couple of people at their church.
Danny Boyett had a couple of revolvers, an 1858 Remington and an 1851 Navy Colt, which he demonstrated how to load.
The cylinders were packed with gun powder and then a lead ball was pushed in. A plunger packed the lead down and grease sealed it, Boyett said. The grease lubricated the load and prevented the flames from the shot igniting the other charges in the cylinder. A percussion cap was placed on each charge.
“It takes 15 minutes to load a cylinder,” Danny Boyett said.
Jolena Boyett shared information on the cooking utensils, which included a grate to be used over a fire, a cast iron skillet for eggs and bacon and a dutch oven for soup or stew. The chairs, lanterns and coffee pot are appropriate for the time period, she said.
“We try to keep things authentic,” Jolena Boyett said.
Charlotte and James Shanks have been reenactors for 20 years and live in Bowling Green. Their children Robert, 10; Rebecca, 12; and Katherine, 14, have been participating since they were babies.
“We both love history,” Charlotte Shanks said. “Two uncles ‘fought’ in the 21st OVI and were killed at Chickamauga. When James found the 21st, it was a natural fit.”
The children have a box of games for other children to join in, including Jacob’s ladder, the original fidget spinner, and a ball in a cup. The girls use sticks to toss a hoop and learn graceful movements. Many of the games taught lessons to practice what they had learned in school.
The Shanks family as reenactors had their own Civil War story.
“My husband ran the sawmill,” Charlotte said. “I had to run a business. The two older sons worked at the mill until they went to war. The youngest had to do the chores.”
Soldiers believed the war would be over in a few weeks, and they expected their wives and children to manage the business and home, she said.
“If the men thought everything was running smoothly, they would continue to fight, knowing there was something to return to,” Charlotte said. “Everyone had to step up to the next level, including the children.”
Dressmaker Jan Lauer of Erie talked to visitors about sewing and the invention of the Butterick patterns for men in 1863 and women in 1866. New fashions came out in the spring and fall and a dressmaker couldn’t make any money the two months before each season. Lauer did millinery, or creating hats, during those four months.
“I like to teach something they won’t learn in textbooks,” Lauer said. “There’s more to the Civil War than battles.”
Capt. Jeff Wormley of Struthers has been a reenactor for 20 years and was in the 27th V.A. Co. G Shriver Greys from Wheeling, Va.
His group always portrays the Confederacy.
“We don’t like the guys in blue,” Wormley said. “Some of our ancestors fought for the South, but most people have ancestors from both sides.”
The 1st Ohio Light Battery A is part of the state militia, the educational militia, which fires the cannons seen around the statehouse.
A cannon is loaded with a round every 20 seconds, said Gunner Garth Wilson of Zanesville. The gunner gives the commands for the gun and aims the piece.
Because the cannon is a smooth bore, it can hit the broadside of a barn at 800 yards. If it was rifled, it could hit the window in a barn, Wilson said.
Six horses pull the cannon, limber or ammunition box, and caisson, or utility box, which holds extra ammunition, spare wheels and grease, he said.
“The goal of artillery was to drop people in mass numbers, such as in the cornfield at Antietam,” Wilson said.
Dennis Stinematz of western Columbus had the role of powder monkey for the artillery group. Artillery had red trim and crossed cannons on their hats. Cavalry had yellow trim and infantry had light blue trim.
Stinematz said his great-great-grandfather James Robert Looker was in the 10th Ohio Cavalry, Co. A. He was captured and sent to Andersonville prison-of-war camp but was traded. He had been a farmer and harness maker before the war and had joined when he was 45 years old.
He was a “worthless man” after the war and had to fight to receive his $8 per month pension after proving he could no longer do the work he had done before the war.
James’ son, Hector Looker, was 19 when he joined and was killed in Georgia near the Nash Farm in 1863, Stinematz said. He is buried in Georgia.
“There are so many stories nobody knows about,” Stinematz said.
Those visiting the annual August event have an opportunity to become a part of them.