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Group is a living lesson on customs of the Civil War



Published: Thu, July 11, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Every aspect of the presentation is historically accurate.

By AMY HOUSLEY

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

BAZETTA -- Not far from rows of modern RVs at the Trumbull County Fair is a row of tents like a step back in time. And it's a big step -- back to the Civil War.

Members of the 105th Ohio Volunteer Infantry are at the fair this week, re-creating a Civil War camp. Canvas tents are set up, spaced with a walkway 15 feet wide, as was standard during the war.

Don VanMeter of North Jackson has been involved with the group since 1988. He said that everything the infantry presents is authentic and the objective is "to educate the public."

Camp focal point

One of the major camp focal points is the fireplace. While at the fair, the infantry members camp all week and cook their meals over the fire.

Items such as bread and pies are baked in what is appropriately named an oven -- a pot placed over hot coals. The oven has a lid also covered with coals.

Also at the fireplace, bullets are made by melting lead -- which is then poured into molds. Dice are also made by pounding the bullets to square them off. A sharp object is used to make the marks on each side. Dice were used for gambling, even though it was strictly prohibited by the army.

Another major focal point is the artifact table. Weapons, money and personal items from the war are displayed.

The driving force behind VanMeter's interest in the infantry was the artifacts. He dealt in antiques. After seeing another Civil War re-enactment group, he realized that he had access to the items the group was using.

Authenticity

All of the infantry members are volunteers and use the items they have collected, including authentic costumes. For example, the soles of the shoes are held on by wooden pegs and there is no difference between the left and right shoes.

Men wear wool pants and white muslin shirts. Hardware such as the buttons on jackets are made from the original molds. The costumes are so authentic that they even use the same number of stitches per inch that the army uniforms had.

Women's clothing was more complicated than the men's uniforms. Women had three dresses, the simplest of which is the camp dress. There was also the day dress with hoops and a high collar. The fanciest of all would be the ball gown.

Members of the infantry have learned about the history and seek to educate.

"We know what the public wants to know," VanMeter said. In speaking with visitors to their camp, they focus on historical facts of particular interest. The visitors are also welcome to look around. He said that the camp is sometimes completely packed with visitors.

"We have learned from past experiences and tried to improve our club as much as possible," said VanMeter.




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