The 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Company "G" Civil War re-enactment group held a "recruitment" re-enactment in the shadow of the stately Perkins Stone Mansion in Akron on Saturday, Aug. 25 to replenish their ranks. The event was well attended and many civilian spectators were "recruited" to fight for the cause.
In 1862, with the ranks decimated, 29th O.V.I.'s plea was to "Preserve and protect this Union and the Constitution." A recruiting poster stated: "Arouse men of Ohio. Our country's flag has been insulted. Patriotism and love of country alike demand a ready response from every able bodied man, 18 and over, capable of bearing arms in this trying hour – not only to sustain the existence of our government, but to vindicate the honor of the flag so ruthlessly torn by the traitor's hands from within the walls of Ft. Sumter."
The goal was to refill the ranks of the 29th Ohio. This great regiment, once part of a division, the only division that defeated General Stonewall Jackson, had suffered a great loss at their last battle at Cedar Creek (11 killed; 26 wounded; 12 missing). Only 83 men were fielded for duty out of 988 the morning following that terrible battle on Aug. 10, 1862.
Paul Goebbel, of Stow and Civil War living history presenter portraying the character of Joshua Giddings, told the young people that many times civilians younger than 18 years old would try to enlist in the Union army. Giddings said, "The way to get around that is to write the number 18 on a slip of paper, then place the piece of paper in your shoe. That way, when the recruiting officer asks if you are over 18, you can honestly answer, 'Yes sir, I'm over 18.' Then you are in at $13 a month. A lot of money in 1862."
Giddings went on to tell them, "We're probably going to make you a drummer boy, or maybe have you carrying a flag. Does that sound like a pretty good job?" he asked the group, to which many nodded their heads. "Let me tell you exactly some of the things a person carrying a flag or beating on a drum has to do." He went on to explain, "The beating on that drum is where different orders were passed along, because the drum is louder than a man's voice. You also had all of the black powder [smoke] floating through there, so it was very dark and dismal with all the firing of the canons and the muskets, so your regiment would listen for their regimental beat and they would march over to where that drummer was. And, of course, you were carrying a flag in that same area here, the regimental colors, and you would come to those regimental colors. When you got over there, then you could be formed up to fight, and the like," he said.
"Well," Giddings asked, "if you were a Rebel soldier here, a Confederate, who are you going to shoot at first?" The flag and that drummer was the response. "So, yes, it sounds like it's a wonderful job, but that's what you were up against. I was in the legislature," Giddings told the crowd. "I am currently the U.S. council to Canada, in the Lincoln administration. I, myself, am a Republican. Some call me a radical Republican. But I just feel that we must do something to free the slave population in the South, and the like. And I do think that president Lincoln is attempting...but I do feel he could move somewhat faster. My good friend and ex-legal partner, Benjamin Wade has also given that information to Mr. Lincoln, so he is well aware of our feelings on the subject of emancipation," Giddings concluded.
Rick Frye of Akron and Captain, Co. G 29th OVI, commanding, told the Akronist, "My role is, I'm the commander of the company, I have charge of the company in the field of battle at all times. Any details [that] were assigned or anything else. As far as military matters go, the 'Buck stops here,' as it were. Orders were received from headquarters on down. Our national organization is the Army of Ohio. It's commanded by Brigadier General Bob Mintin. There are several Union national organizations. For the hundred and fiftieth [anniversary] there is a thing called the Blue/Gray Alliance which almost all of the national organizations belong to. And we are one of six brigades in the Western division of the federal alliance. Then you have an Eastern division and there are four big brigades in that," said Frye.
"Those are some of the things we do", he went on. "We like to keep history alive. Those are some of the things we enjoy doing. I have an interest, going way back, when I was in the U.S. Air Force, and started as a Revolutionary War re-enactor. Then later, when I was stationed in England, I was a medieval re-enactor. As I traced my genealogy and found my grandfather, that garnered into the Civil War re-enacting to honor my ancestor. We have two members who are direct descendants of Civil War veterans, so we're really passionate about preserving the history," he said.
Ted Dudra of Green has many years of experience enacting for various groups and portrays an Irish sergeant from the canal days in Akron. "A poor man, such as me-self, has nae education," his character said. He portrays that gentleman to reinstate what the history would have been with the poor Irish back in the day that they had to make a meager wage. "The army was only $13 a month, yet, that was a good wage for me, and I gladly joined to help save the country for Mr. Lincoln." Asked how his character felt the war was going in 1862, he replied, "Aye, in '62, we've not dun it so well. President Lincoln figured the war, and the rest of us figured the war, would be over in a short time. But that's nae been the case. Stonewall Jackson is given' a run for the money. And our generals are not quite as efficient, hence we'll still be fightin' here in the next two years. We intend to change the tide and reinstate the country rather than put that rebellion down and have two countries that will be back to one happy country as president Lincoln asks."
Kathy Kraus of Medina has been involved in the craft of re-enacting for more than 20 years. She began involvement with the 29th just this year, and is a speaker for Civil War talks. She has portrayed roles such as Mary Todd Lincoln, Julia Grant and Emma the Spy. A former art and history teacher, Kraus brought re-enactors to the school for Civil War Day in Median to teach the students through art. This year the group visited school districts in Kent, Copley and several other areas down by Dover and Tuscarawas. She has continued doing this in the spring as part of history for the schools in the area. "Paul Goebbel and I, and some of the others, go out to give presentations and give our own talks. Paul does his portrayals, such as today, and I do the same, but I do it on quilts of the Civil War and Emma the Spy. Then I go to historic groups and civic groups and schools as these characters. I do it alone or in groups. That's about it in a nut shell," she said. "As for being over 20 years in it, it's been pretty exciting and to be honest with you, the last year has been unbelievably amazing," she added.
"Katherine" was there portraying her great-great-grandmother, Katherine McChestnut, a second or third generation Scots-Irish woman from Andover, Ohio. She wore an authentic Glengarry, with feather, perched at a jaunty angle atop her head.
Period music for the event was provided by Elixir of Mount Vernon, Ohio. Members Mike Petee, Chris Petee and Gerry Rensel played a variety of instruments, including: guitar; bass; banjo; mandolin; and fiddle. The humor they provided between songs kept the spectators engaged for more than 90 minutes.
This merry band of Company "G" re-enactors was in Strongsville, Ohio recently for Home Front Day to help educate the public about life in a small village during the Civil War. They returned with this recipe for "Civil War Applesauce Cookies" from the Strongsville Historical Society's cookbook: "Log Cabin Recipes / Civil War 1861-1865." Enjoy!
Civil War Applesauce Cookies
2-1/4 cups sugar
1-1/3 cups shortening
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup applesauce
6 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
Cream the shortening, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add the applesauce and mix well. Add sifted dry ingredients and blend well. Drop by heaping tablespoons full onto a greased cookie sheet. Flatten and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. (They will not be brown.)