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Experiencing the Civil War

By Carol McIntire

Civil War at Community Park
Members of the 5th Kentucky Infantry shared a few stories before the Sunday afternoon battle was scheduled to begin. From left are Captain Jeff Steiner of Gahanna (who portrayed a private in the battle), Private Bernie Hocke of Reynoldsburg and Private Brent Jones Fredericktown, all Ohio.

A commanding officer barked orders to rural recruits as they prepared for battle Sunday morning at Community Park near Carrollton as if it were a real life situation.

The new recruits, mostly members of Boy Scout Troop 141, looked the part as they were clad in Civil War uniforms. They listened intently to Sgt. Kenny Meeks as he prepared them for their first involvement in battle re-enactment later in the afternoon.

Meeks, who is from Canfield and a member of the 105th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI), said he was training the boys basic maneuver drills as members of the Union Army before they faced off against the South in a battle re-enactment.

As Meeks was training his recruits on one end of the battlefield, Chief of Staff Wayne Unger was training Confederate recruits the Manual of Arms at the other end in preparation for the battle.

Unger is a member of the Army of the Shenandoah and from Cleveland. Both Unger and Meeks are veteran re-enactors who participated in the Fighting McCooks Heritage Weekend Sept. 22 and 23.  The two organizations were joined by members of the 5th Kentucky Infantry for the event, which included the firing of cannons as well as a replica of the Gatling gun.

Captain Jeff Steiner of Gahanna, Private Bernie Hocke of Reynoldsburg and Private Brent Jones of Fredericktown watched from a distance as the new recruits were being trained.

Steiner, who jokingly said he “demoted himself to private” for Sunday’s battle, has been involved in Civil War re-enacting for 11 years.

“I bought a hat, went to Gettysburg and purchased this pair of boots,” he said standing and pointing to the knee-high brown boots on his feet, “and I was hooked.”

He said his experiences help him appreciate what soldiers went through at that time.

“We get to be re-enactors and then go home to our comfy houses.  They didn’t. There were 780,000 people killed in the Civil War. We need to educate our children and keep the tradition alive,” he said.

Hocke, who sat on a chair with fellow Confederate private Jones around a campfire, echoed Steiner’s thoughts about educating young people.

“We need to teach our young people about the history of this country,” they said in agreement.

The two sides met on the battlefield for an engagement, which of course, the “blue guys won.”
David Lamiell of Painsville had his exact replica of the 1962 Gatline Gun set on display outside a tent and fired the gun both days.
“It was manufactured from the original patent of Dr. Gatling,” he said, explaining how the gun fired. “It took a crew of four to six men to fire the gun. You know, today they use a modified version of the Gatling gun in the military,” he said adding to his history lesson.

Lamiell became involved in re-enacting several years ago when his son, then age 8, decided he wanted to be a re-enactor.

“He wasn’t allowed on the field without an adult, so I went with him. “It evolved from there. I now have 30 Civil War guns I display at events like this. We made the replica gun ourselves from the original patent.”

Amy Rutledge, Carroll County Convention and Visitors Bureau director, the agency that organized the event, said it was the second re-enactment held in the community as part of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which began in 2011 and continues through 2015.

“We have a larger turnout than last year and we had a good crowd for the Buffalo Roast and Officer’s Dance. The rain hit just about that time Saturday evening, but the event went off as planned and I believe everyone had a good time.”

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