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Published: Sunday, 3/28/2010

Re-enactors make encampment look like the real thing

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Dressed with attention to historical detail, soldiers of the 9th Virginia Regiment, Company F, practice marching during the Civil War encampment at the historical center in Bowling Green. Dressed with attention to historical detail, soldiers of the 9th Virginia Regiment, Company F, practice marching during the Civil War encampment at the historical center in Bowling Green.
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BOWLING GREEN - In his scratchy, blue wool pants and jacket, Charles Simpson looked distinctly uncomfortable, but he insisted he was not, thanks to his long johns and other undergarments.

"The wool is very strong. It's waterproof, basically. It doesn't really absorb water," said Mr. Simpson of Bowling Green.

The wool also was historically accurate, along with the underwear, and that's what concerned him and his fellow Civil War re-enactors above all yesterday at the Wood County Historical Center and Museum.

"Soldiers" representing the Blue and the Gray staged an encampment on the historical center's grounds. They slept in tents, cooked over fires, drilled, pretended to shoot at each other with muzzle-loaders, and demonstrated the primitive physical conditions soldiers of that era experienced.

Mr. Simpson, who taught gymnastics and physical education at Bowling Green State University before he retired, said interest in the Civil War is strong.

"I have done school talks. We have done parades and courthouse ceremonies," he said of himself and the 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry to which he belongs. "And we do re-enactments. That's where we have the fun."

Mr. Simpson speaks knowledgeably about the smallest details of Civil War life.

Shoes, for instance. He wears a pair of brogans made the same way as the authentic soldier's footwear of that era. There's no left or right shoe. The wearer simply breaks them in that way as he wears them, making .manufacturing a lot easier.

Matt Cramer, Jr., of Hoytville, Ohio, drills with Cpl. Charles Simpson of Bowling Green. Matt Cramer, Jr., of Hoytville, Ohio, drills with Cpl. Charles Simpson of Bowling Green.
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"It was a pretty smart way to do it, really," Mr. Simpson said. "Once you break them in, they're really comfortable."

And what would a Civil War re-enactment be without the sound of battle? The two sides formed skirmish lines and had at each other with muzzle loaders, which, firing only black powder, made an almighty bang and issued clouds of smoke.

"Shoot that man, somebody shoot him," a Union officer yelled as a gray-clad figure ran across the line of fire and hid behind a tree.

The Confederacy was represented by the 9th Virginia Regiment. One member, Jim Essman of Findlay, was there with his daughter McKenna, 12, who looked much older dressed as a southern belle in a long dress with a hoop underneath.

McKenna, who goes to Arcadia Local School in Hancock County, said she is the latest in a line of Civil War buffs that includes her father, uncle, and grandfather.

"We went to Gettysburg. We walked Pickett's Charge. We didn't even need a guide, my grandfather knows the battle so well," she explained.

Nina Oberkirsch, a re-enactor from Bowling Green who also wore a hoop skirt, said of the participants in the encampment: "We love the history, and we love to honor those who came before us. If you don't teach it, you lose it. A lot of it wasn't pretty, but it was what it was. It helped make us what we are today."

Contact Carl Ryan at:

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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