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FRANK PIATEK | One on One Civil War interest began at battlefield



Published: Mon, September 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



When did you first become interested in the Civil War?

When I was 9 years old, my parents took me on my first trip to the Gettysburg battlefield. From that point on, I got interested in it. I was reading books about the Civil War since that time. But it's only been 13 years ago that I got involved in the aspect of Civil War re-enacting.

How did you get into re-enacting?

It was the 125th anniversary of the Civil War and I was a member of the Mahoning Valley Civil War Roundtable in Youngstown. There were some individuals in that organization who were re-enactors. I happened to be talking with them and it kind of intrigued.

Has your interest in the Civil War spurred any of your other interests?

I do perform on occasion with the 11th North Carolina Civil War Regimental Band. It's composed of varying musicians who play instruments in a Civil War-type brass band. ... I had the pleasure of performing with their band as the token Yankee at the first National Civil War Brass Band Festival in Kentucky last year.

You play an instrument?

I play the drums. As a matter of fact, that's another one of my hobbies. When I got into Civil War re-enacting, I got in with the intention of being a drummer.

You played in a professional band?

At one point, I was a semiprofessional musician. I was in various bands and the money I made put me through college and graduate school and I did that quite a bit. That hobby allowed me to meet a lot of interesting people, as well as Civil War re-enacting.

What type of music did you perform?

It ranged from jazz, blues, polka music, all types. At one point in my career, I was playing four nights a week. That's how I made it through college.

Do you have a favorite movie?

I don't see too many movies, but I enjoy drama movies. ... Movies like "The Godfather."

Do you have a favorite movie that is set in the Civil War era?

I enjoyed the movie "Glory" with Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman.

If you could have lunch with anyone living or dead, who would you chose?

Robert E. Lee and also Buddy Rich, the jazz drummer, assuming they'd have lunch with me.

Are there any Civil War heroes on the Union side that you would like to meet?

Dan Sickles. I'd just like to meet [Sickles and Lee] and learn more about their personalities. Dan Sickles is more iconoclastic and Robert E. Lee was a Southern gentleman. Sickles murdered his wife's lover before the war. He was a politician and got off the hook with a temporary insanity defense. After the war, he became a minister to Spain and caused an uproar over there. He tried to have an affair with the queen. I would certainly like to meet him.

Do you do any other type of re-enacting?

I also now do civilian re-enacting with my wife, who dresses in period costumes with the hoop skirts which she makes. That's one of her hobbies. She's into sewing. And the both of us do period dancing.

It's a hobby that both my wife and I can be involved in. ... This something that we can do together and its something that we enjoy.

How did you meet your wife?

I met her at Duquesne and it was interesting because I knew so much about the Gettysburg area, where she is from, having studied it. I kind of portrayed myself as being from there. This charade took place for about two or three weeks before I made a slip and she asked, "You are not really from the area are you?" and that's how we got to know each other.

She wasn't upset about it?

We kind of laugh about it.

Is there any relationship between your legal career and re-enacting?

There is no direct relationship between what I do professionally and what I do for recreation. I've always believed in the adage, never get too busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

Do you have any other hobbies aside from re-enacting and music?

I also did wedding photography. I did that on a part-time basis. I try to incorporate some of my hobbies as best that I can.

What would you like to do in the future?

I'd really enjoy teaching college. I've always thought I would enjoy teaching history or business law.

Any other plans?

I'd like do a Civil War history on a unit that came out of this area. The Battery B, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery Unit has the distinction of sustaining the most casualties of any Civil War light artillery unit. The only problem is I can't find source material ... letters, diaries ... that might make a nice story.




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