SIDNEY — When Newark, Ohio resident Doug Gill sets up his tent at Sidney, Ohio’s Civil War Living History Weekend, it will be his third appearance in Sidney portraying a Confederate Medical Corps surgeon. Gill also attended the inaugural 2016 event and returned again in 2018.
He’s been portraying a Civil War era surgeon for more than three decades. “A friend of mine, Tom Hankins, was at the time portraying a Confederate surgeon, and he needed a ‘patient’ on whom to operate. I volunteered,” Gill said.
“Some years later Tom began portraying a surgeon in the Revolutionary War Army. As a result I took his place,” said Gill. “I’ve read a lot of books on the subject. In fact, I’ve just returned from Gettysburg where I purchased a couple more books I had not previously read. I always want to learn more about the war, and the important role medicine played in the conflict.
“The human cost of the war surpassed all expectations,” Gill said. “More than 2% of the population, an estimated 750,000 men, died in the conflict, and more than two-thirds of those died from disease. There were very few families who were not touched by the ravages of war.”
“My favorite Civil War battlefield is Gettysburg,” Gill said. “I try to get there at least four times a year. Even with all the trips I’ve made there, I’m still always discovering new things.”
“As you know, the Gettysburg National Military Park now includes more than 6,000 acres, more than 1,300 monuments, 400 cannon, 31 miles of historic avenues, and 147 buildings,” Gill continued. “I still have new things I find every time I visit, but I do know where the dinosaur footprints are located!”
“I probably should mention that I cross-dress,” Gill said, his eyes twinkling. “I have a blue uniform and occasionally portray a Union surgeon as well!”
In addition, Gill has been known to portray a country doctor. More recently, he has been gathering the information he will need to portray an Episcopal priest.
“There were a couple of Confederate generals who were Episcopal priests,” Gill said. “Probably the best known was Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk, an Episcopal bishop who was a classmate of Jefferson Davis at West Point. Robert E. Lee’s Chief of Artillery, Brigadier Gen. William Pendleton, was also an Episcopal priest.”
In addition to Gettysburg, Gill has visited a number of other Civil War battlefields. They include Antietam, Buffington Island, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, Harpers Ferry, Kennesaw Mountain and Perryville.
Gill’s re-enacting skills have landed him gigs on the History Channel, Discovery Channel and A&E. He has also appeared in two movies about the Civil War, including Gods and Generals and Andersonville.
When Gill was asked to identify his favorite Civil War character, without a moment’s hesitation he identified Confederate Gen. Lewis Armistead. “His motto was ‘trust in God and fear nothing’, Gill stated. “I very much admire him, his friendship with Union General Winfield Scott Hancock, and am intrigued by their final meeting on the Gettysburg Battlefield. In the end, neither knew the other lay wounded following Pickett’s Charge, Armistead mortally.”
A retired industrial technology teacher, Gill is the parent of two daughters, Katie and Shannon. He has two granddaughters, Lauren and Erin, and six cats. His cat Lewis (named for Gen. Armistead) is the oldest at 18. The others include Precious, Twanda, Mr. Meowee, Hale Girl, and Kamehameha.
In addition to reading and re-enacting, Gill enjoys volunteering time with Honor Flight. He also enjoys collecting items pertaining to the Disney character, Uncle Scrooge McDuck.
Canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, the 2022 edition of Sidney, Ohio’s Civil War Living History Weekend is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17, and Sunday, Sept. 18, in Tawawa Park. Sponsored by the Shelby County Historical Society and funded in part through a grant from the City of Sidney Lodging Tax Fund, the event will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning and run through Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. Admission is free.