Muskets, cannons and flags, both Union and Confederate, were in full display on the grounds of the Century Village Museum in Burton last weekend during the 2021 Civil War reenactment.
Stepping into encampments reflecting the 1860s has unwittingly turned some individuals into history buffs.
“I had no wants and desires to teach [history]. I am a mechanic by trade,” said Mark Watts, 63, of Nova, Ohio. “My wife put me in an auction for the [Civil War-era] pistol that I have.” He bid $5 and won. “So, it led me to get into the reenacting.”
Mr. Watts said that he started in the First Ohio Calvary, but now serves as a reenactment of Corporal Robert McBride from Richland County, a bodyguard of President Abraham Lincoln during the war.
“[Cpl. McBride] came into existence after Mr. Lincoln got his hat shot off,” Mr. Watts explained. “Gov. [David] Tod said that we needed a show of force. He asked one guy from all 88 counties [in Ohio] to volunteer and got 108 volunteers, but not all counties had volunteered somebody. All bodyguards had to read, write, shoot proficiently, ride on horseback and think on their feet.”
Mr. Watts said reenacting makes the Civil War “living history.”
“I think it’s a good learning experience for kids to come out and see some of this stuff and are able to ask questions,” he said. “Most of the reenactors, especially the ones that do the living history side of things, are really good historians because they read up on stuff. I think they know more than history teachers do in school.”
Spectators saw two battles between the North and South, one last Saturday and the other last Sunday. After marching with their squadrons, men in Confederate and Union uniforms sat by campfires while family members tended to the fire and served up dinner.
The event also holds dear to Duncan Virostko, 26, of Lakewood, and a student at Cleveland State University who is working on his master’s degree in history, as he finds events such as the Civil War reenactment as a hobby.
“It’s been two or three years now,” Mr. Virostko said regarding his time in reenacting. “I took some time during [the coronavirus pandemic] quarantine to learn a little bit of hand sewing, as I sewed new buttons on to my dress shirt. I eventually plan on working up to making my own shirt, but I’m still sort of learning the bits and pieces of sewing that’s necessary for that.”
Mr. Virostko said that he started gaining interest after learning and playing songs from the Civil War on the violin about ten years ago. His interest in Civil War reenactments took off after attending an event at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in downtown Cleveland that commemorates the American Civil War from 1861-1865.
“I wound up meeting up with the reenactors group called the First Ohio Light Artillery Battery A based in Columbus,” he said.
While Mr. Virostko is an artillery reenactor, he said that he was a Union infantryman during the event in Burton this past weekend due to an injury of a fellow member.
Mr. Virostko said that he finds joy in seeing people who are “living in the past.”
“It’s like being in a time machine,” Mr. Virostko said. “You’ve got ladies walking around in hoop skirts. You’ve got gentlemen all dressed up in their Union blues. You’ve got a bunch of historical houses and things, and I just love that. I love being able to interact with the environment in a way of that
Mr. Virostko said his mission is to also teach history as well as his specialty in material culture. He defined that as anything made by people during different times, such as clothing, “in ways that people wouldn’t necessarily think of technology.
“I try to give people a better understanding of how technology has progressed,” he said. “I am always finding some new historical gadget that I never knew existed that I found very neat. There are various, different technologies that you wouldn’t think would’ve existed during the time period but were there.”
Mr. Virostko said that people should be reminded that “history is fun.”
“History is a great way to get involved with doing so many different things that you never thought you would find yourself doing,” he said. “Like sewing buttons onto shirts or learning about new technologies or learning about different kinds of people, there is a whole world of history out there.”