CIVIL WAR REINACTMENT
Each year, the Genesee Country Museum in Mumford entertains its greatest
crowds during the weekend set aside for Civil War battle reinactments. Over
500 Confederate and Union troops bed down in the 125-acre farm land. Visitors
are encouraged to walk through the camps and explore the area, turning the clock
back to over a century ago. Professions of the period are set up also so folks
can hear of.. the undertaker's pitch: for the five or seven dollar burial-
a buck extra if you'd like someone to cry over your remians for a day.
UNDERTAKER: What they would do with embalming back then is they would use large
bottles and hoses, and a siphoning effect using formaldahide. They would sew up
the body and that would be it. When they were done they could pick the body up
like a piece of wood. They did this to President Lincoln. That's how they were
able to transport him all over the United States before his burial. If he started
to leak they'd plug the leak and sew him back up. That's exactly what they did.
I know it sounds like a tire on your car but that's exactly what they would do.
The Union doctor, blood-stained sponge and work table at the ready, tells the
crowd of the 36-hour work shifts by surgeons during the war- the MASH units of the
1860s. Butchers were actually employed to do amputations because of their skill
ith the blade. The average operation took about five minutes due to the limited
medical knowledge of the period. Twice as many soldiers would die from sickness
during the Civil War than those perishing in battle.
DOCTOR: At that time we did not have an urban society, we had a very urban society.
These people, if you can imagine, had no immune system. And you take a hundred
thousand men and you put them in an area. And when I have to say, "Look, son. The
drinking water is here, down creek is the.. john." As far as sanitary conditions
I mean you almost had to tell them when to change their clothes. But these poor
fellows came up with diptheria, typhoid, diarreah. I mean some of these poor kids,
you see their death certificate- they died of meloncolia. Well, I'm sure we would
have a different name for it today, but most of it was just because they were
The Confederate chaplain with the Stonewall Jackson brigade is preparing for
Sunday services. These men of the cloth may have been responsible for the
pre-battle prayer, teaching reading and writing, but would not be used in any
offensive manner during battles.
CHAPLAIN: No sir. I do not carry a gun and will not take a life. Of course, during
the battle I'm with the troops working as a surgeon's assistant- helping the wounded
soldiers, getting them off the field. I would administer to their spiritual needs,
try to deal with the ones still living to make sure they are safe.. make sure that
if they are going to go to their eternal destination they'd be headed to heaven.
Chester Szafarski has been captain of the 22nd Virginia battalion for the reinacting
Confederates for eight years.
SZAFARSKI: We strive for authenticity, to portray the Civil War soldier exactly as it
would have been like back then. And it's very expensive. An average uniform could be
up to 12-hundred dollars. Shoes are all wooden pegged with leather, and wooded pegged
heels and soles. There was no such things as belt loops back then.There was no such
thing as zippers. Velcro was non-existent. Elastic was non-existent. It was all one
hundred percent cotton and wool. Yeah, it's hot. We do sweat.. and so did they.
Szafarski says, for the reinactor, all the pains to create the way it was can
suddenly become worth it.
SZAFARSKI: It doesn't happen all the time because you can always have a
plane fly over.. or someone talking about something that's modern. But when
the conditions are right and everything is set up right you can actually sit
back and think to yourself: this is how it must have been like back then.
It's kind of mind-boggling to know how they would have lived, when cars weren't
around, when planes weren't around, when they had to walk everywhere, and
living off the land. And that's what I think renewed the interest in it.
Leading the 140th New York Volunteer Infantry for the past nine years
is Norman Jones.
JONES: You really have to get into it. You have to be knowlegeable. You have to
be educated in the Civil War. We expect our people to do presentations in schools
and historical preservation societys. So you have to be quite knowledgeable- it's
not just run out there and play shoot-'em-up and John Wayne and cowboys- it's a
lot more than that.
Jones says the PBS series has fostered a new and much needed appreciation of
the Civil War. For instance, the black man was finally credited for his contributions.
And slavery was not the only issue between the states.
JONES: What people don't realize is the sacrifices that the soldiers had to make..
the food that they had to eat, the clothing they had to wear, the life that they
had to live with- and fortunately we have to live with that life. And the soldier
had to endure that along with his fear of dying and following the commands of his officers.
And I believe the PBS series is bringing out the fact that there were a
lot of questions that needed to be answered and the growth of our nation.. and the
Civil War just wrenched those answers out of us- whether we wanted them to or not.
Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370.