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VIDEO: Civil War reenactors battled heat and rain to bring history to life

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published: August 19, 2016 12:00 AM
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Bath -- New recruits and visitors were tested by the heat and rain during the Civil War reenactment Aug. 13 and 14 at Hale Farm and Village in Bath.

More than 700 participants reenacted the Battle of Big Bethel, one of the earliest American Civil War battles, which occurred in June 10, 1861.

The Battle of Big Bethel was the first land engagement in Virginia, and the Federals were overconfident, said Mike Church, commander of the 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. The Confederates used breastworks and their cavalry to beat the North.

"They learned it wasn't going to be easy [to win the war]," Church said. "Maybe they would be in this for awhile."

The battles on Saturday and Sunday demonstrated the role of the Cavalry in the war, he said.

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"We want to educate the public," Church said.

For those who remember, last year Southern General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulyssses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House, and the battles celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War came to a close.

Many of the veterans waited until the end of 2015 to retire and the reenactors are looking for new recruits, said Bob Vance of Jamestown, Tennessee and deputy commander of the 6th OVC.

Church, who is originally from Parkersburg, W. Va., and now lives in Kentucky, said members come from every state and two are from Canada.

The 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry is the largest in the United States with 68 riders, Church said. More information is found on the 6th Ohio Cavalry Facebook site.

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Riders typically provide their own horse, and the horse has to be trained to ignore the cannon blasts and gunfire during a battle, he said.

"A veteran horse doesn't pay attention to the battle," Church said. "He eats grass if he is stopped during the battle."

Riders also need to be trained to understand the bugle calls, which the 6th OVC uses to communicate commands, Church said.

Troopers in the unit come from all walks of life and participate in six to seven events a year but form a community, he said.

"When we see each other, it's like we saw each other yesterday," Church said. "It's like a family."

The riders use a McClellan 1859 style saddle made of wood and rawhide, said trooper Brandon Parchman of Nashville. A rider's equipment includes the saddle, bridle, saddlebags, nosebag with oats, a carbine, canteen, haversack and bedroll. Parchman wears a saber, weapons belt, revolver and wool uniform.

"The horse teaches us," Parchman said. "He knows the commands before we do."

The Camp Chase Fifes and Drum Corps provided period music; and reenactor leaders included Brigadier General Bob Minton of the First Federal Division; Colonel Greg Van Wey of the Jeff Davis Rifles Battalion; and Colonel Paul Baltzer of the Birney's Division.

Besides the battle and camps, visitors could tour the permanent buildings at the village. The "Old Brick" house, home of Jonathan Hale, was completed in 1827 with three generations of Hales living on the farm.

Since 1958 Hale Farm & Village has been preserving and interpreting life in the Western Reserve.

Ashleigh, 7, and Noelle, 5, Cenna learned the process of taking wool from the sheep, carding it and spinning, which was demonstrated by Hale Farm & Village employees Lauren Fowkes and Megan Smezink.

Smezink, who has a degree in history, said Hale Farm and Village was an "interesting space to talk about the near past and local history."

Fowkes, who has a degree in communication and theater, said she has a passion for history. She said in a time when people are glued to social media, they need to see people interact directly.

"We tell them how people lived without electricity," Fowkes said. "It provides a lot of learning opportunities."

Hale Farm & Village will host the Made in Ohio Art & Craft Festival Sept. 3 and 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information is available at www.halefarm.org

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP

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