SIDNEY — The residents of Sidney once again heard the rumble of cannons and echoes of musket shots as the biannual Civil War Living Historty Weekend returned to Tawawa Park. The event began in 2016 and brings re-enactors from across Ohio and even some from out of state to educate the area about life during the Civil War by bringing history to life.
Tawawa Park was full of re-enactors and attendees Saturday and Sunday for the first Civil War Living History Weekend since 2018. The biannual event was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic and that cancellation affected attendance of re-enactors and speakers.
The Sidney Ohio Civil War Living History Weekend Committee Chair Mike Barhorst said, “Reassuring re-enactors and citizens that we weren’t going to cancel and encouraging them to come back was the hardest part of planning this year.”
Despite fears of cancellations, both days were full of fascinating lectures in the Education Tent and educational re-enactors scattered throughout the park to show attendees different aspects of Civil War Era life.
Speakers at the education tent offered lectures on various parts of Civil War life, including advances in weaponry that changed the war and the different ways Ohio was involved in the Civil War.
Saturday’s first speaker was Phil Spaugy who presented his collection of Civil War muskets and rifles while teaching the audience Ohio’s role in arming the Union. His lecture focused on Ohio troops, the advancement of rifles in Ohio during the war and Miles Greenwood’s role in Ohio’s advancement. According to Spaugy, Ohio was influential in arming Union troops during the Civil War. Greenwood’s Eagle Foundry out of Cincinnatti, founded in 1832, was the biggest foundry in Ohio by 1865 and was responsible for arming the majority of Ohio’s Union troops.
Other educational speeches given on Saturday were Michael Shaffer’s overview of his book “Day by Day Through the Civil War in Georgia,” Dan Master’s speech “The 57th Ohio at Shiloh” and Ray Quay’s discussion “The Gatling Gun Changes Warfare.”
Outside of the education tent there were multiple opportunities to experience history and learn how soldiers and civilians lived during the Civil War. Throughout Tawawa Park, both soldier and civilian re-enactors camped to recreate history.
Doug Gil, Confederate Medical Corps surgeon, spent his days at the Civil War Living History Weekend educating civilians on the war time medical practices of the Civil War. For his presentation he had different medications like laudanum, cathartic pills and carbolic salves. Gil even showed visitors a Civil War Era prosthetic leg and how soldiers would smuggle medication across lines to the surgeons in their prosthetics. He even had a child’s doll, opened and stitched back up on its back, to demonstrate that soldiers also used women and their children to help smuggle medicine.
There were also re-enactors on what was called “Sutler’s Row.” Sutlers were civilian merchants that sold provisions to soldiers in the field or at camp. Sutlers at this years Civil War Living History Weekend included Amazon Dry Goods, K & K Mercantile and Rocking Horse Toys and Games. The sutlers were selling both recreated and original clothes, sewing patterns, shoes, books, wooden toys for the kids and much more.
“What better way to learn history than to live it?” said six year veteran re-enactor Jennifer McNamara from Mount Vernon. Her husband and two sons are all soldier re-enactors and have been participating in re-enactments for about eight years.
The first battle reenactment took place at the new Zenas King Bridge in the back of Tawawa Park at 2 p.m. The re-enactment had Union and Confederate soldiers battling across the river to take control of the bridge. Civil War era cannons and rifles were used, firing blank rounds, to emerge the audience in the re-enactment and allow them to relive history. The battle ended with Union soldier re-enactors rushing across the bridge and pushing the Confederate re-enactors back, successfully taking control of Zenas King Bridge.
The first battle re-enactment was followed by more educational opportunities; “The Atlanta Campaign” presentation by Michael Shaffer at 3 p.m. and a presentation titled “Robert E. Lee’s Orderly” by Al Arnold at 4 p.m. The re-enactors and speakers took a dinner break st 5:30 p.m. and returned with a second battle reenactment at 7 p.m. and a performance by the 73rd OVI Regiment Band at 8 p.m. Saturday’s event ended with a Gatling Gun demonstration at 8:30 p.m.
Sunday’s agenda for the event was similar to Saturday’s. Starting at 8 a.m. with a non-denominational religious service and music provided by the 73rd OVI Regiment Band. Educational speeches began at 10 a.m. with Dan Master repeating his lecture “The 57th Ohio at Shiloh” followed by “Stoneman’s Raid” presented by Michael Shaffer at 11 a.m. Ray Quay and Al Arnold also repeated their educational talks Sunday afternoon at 12 and 1 p.m., respectively.
A third and final battle reenactment took place at 2:15 p.m. and re-enactors were scheduled to depart at 3:30 p.m.