Bringing the Civil War to life 2009.05.20

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

What was it that called the men of Ohio to war in 1860? How could an American take up arms to shoot at a fellow U.S. citizen?

It wasn’t slavery, said a reënactor from the Ohio 21st, not in this part of the country. civil.war.in_woods.jpg

“Slavery was just a small part of it. We never saw slavery until we went into Tennessee. We Ohioans didn’t care that much about slavery. We fought to keep the Union in one piece.”

That was the opinion of a Union officer who spoke to Fayette fifth and six grade students at the Opera House May 8.

When a Confederate soldier took his turn on the stage, he explained the interference the south was receiving from Washington, D.C.

“I’ll tell you why we fought,” he said, pointing to the man in the blue uniform. “He invaded my country. He came into Tennessee. He was from the United States of America. The people from the north came down to my country to tell me how to live.”

“This is our country and you don’t have the right to leave it,” the Union officer fired back. “It was our patriotic duty to keep the country together.”

Ohio contributed the third highest number of soldiers to the Union cause, and that includes some women who dressed as men in order to fight. Several underage boys wrote the number 18 on a slip of paper and put it in their shoe. Then, when asked, they could honestly say they were “over 18.”

The Ohio 21st was a diverse group, drawing citizen soldiers from the Michigan border down through Defiance and Findlay.

They fought in Kentucky and Tennessee and down into Alabama. Then they traveled back to Tennessee, and once more into Alabama before joining Sherman’s grand march to the sea through Georgia. They were serving in North Carolina when the war ended.civil.war.tour.jpg

“The 21st walked a lot of miles up and down some pretty big hills. You have to pack pretty light to climb those hills. We had wagons with supplies until the Johnnies burned them.”

They also lost a lot of pack horses and soon everything had to be carried by back in a knapsack. A smaller haversack contained three to five days of food. Without refrigeration, bad food led to sickness and death for many soldiers.

Wool jacket and pants, along with long underwear, were worn year around. Clothing generally lasted six months before it had to be replaced.

Leather shoes included leather soles that often wore out in three months time. A wide-brimmed hat kept sun off the neck and rain out of the face.

The soldiers pointed out the differences in the uniforms of the North and the South, and also one similarity: the pants. Confederate soldiers took Union pants while on patrol or from captured supply trains.

“They’re better than mine,” the Confederate soldier explained.

Students finished the session by asking some questions.

• What did you do around the campfire?

“You don’t want to know. We did a lot of singing and letter writing.”

• When you ran out of ammunition, what would you do?

“Run!”

“A supply train was at the back and a runner would be sent to the rear. In one battle, the runner went back and the train was gone. We started searching the dead and wounded for ammunition.”

• Was there ever a shortage of food?

“Often, especially in the south. Our supply trains were weaker there. We ate hard tack and we were lucky to have that. If we were lucky, there would be weevils in the food. Insects were eaten sometimes, especially by the South near the end of the war.”

The Confederate officer told students what a soldier once wrote home in a letter: War is months and months of boredom punctuated by moments of hell.

  • Play Practice
    DRAMA—Fayette schools, in conjunction with the Opera House Theater program, will present two plays Friday night at the Fayette Opera House. From the left is Autumn Black, Wyatt Mitchell, Elizabeth Myers, Jonah Perdue, Sam Myers (in the back) and Lauren Dale. Other cast members are Brynn Balmer, Mason Maginn, Ashtyn Dominique, Stephanie Munguia and Sierra Munguia. Jason Stuckey serves as the technician and Trinity Leady is the backstage manager. The plays will be performed during the day Friday for students and for the public at 7 p.m. Friday.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.rover
    CLEARING THE WAY—Road crossings in the area on the construction route of the Rover natural gas pipeline are marked with poles and flags as preliminary work nears. Ditches and field entry points are covered with thick planks in many areas to support equipment for tree clearing operations. Actual pipeline construction is progressing across Ohio toward a collecting station near Defiance. That segment of the project is expected to wrap up in July. The 42-inch line through Michigan and into Ontario is scheduled for completion in November. The line is projected to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day.
  • Front.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

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