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Published: Tuesday, 9/7/2010

Wood Co. seeks personal tales from Civil War

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

However, the body of a young Confederate soldier, dressed in gray, was sent instead. The family buried the Confederate soldier in the grave that had been dug for their son Henry Carter, the Union infantry soldier who died at the age of 23.

Stories such as this will be part of Wood County's Civil War sesquicentennial activities beginning in April, 2011.

Special events, coordinated by the county's sesquicentennial committee, are planned to mark the 150th anniversary of the war that tore the country apart and brought it back together again.

Among the artifacts from the Civil War at the Historical Center and Museum are these items. The War's sesquicentennial won't start until next year, but committee members have been planning for months. Among the artifacts from the Civil War at the Historical Center and Museum are these items. The War's sesquicentennial won't start until next year, but committee members have been planning for months.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The committee's program chairman is Judy Justus of Perrysburg, who during cemetery walks has presented details about the Confederate soldier buried at Fort Meigs Union Cemetery.

She is organizing a slate of special speakers who will be booked at libraries across the county. Speakers include Mrs. Justus, whose topic will be the underground railroads through northwest Ohio.

Mrs. Justus, who serves on the board of Historic Perrysburg and is president of the Perrysburg Area Historic Museum, said the sesquicentennial committee has been meeting for several months already. Knowing about the war - and educating others about it - is important, she said.

As Abraham Lincoln has been quoted as saying, "A nation with no regard for its past will do little worth remembering [in] the future."

That quote is at the top of the home page of the 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and 3rd Arkansas, a nonprofit group dedicated to remembering the Civil War through living history. The unit is based in the northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan area. A re-enactment by the group during the sesquicentennial is among plans being discussed.

Committee members are gathering artifacts for exhibit, such as photographs of Civil War soldiers, letters sent to the home front, and military equipment.

Messages are being sent to the committee from area residents who have photographs of their great-great grandfather or other relative who served in the war, said Christie Weininger Raber, director of the Wood County Historical Center & Museum located south of Bowling Green.

The committee would like to obtain photographs of soldiers who were part of the Wood County regiment, she said.

"We have a subcommittee working on the exhibit that will come out next year. The committee is screening everything people bring in," she said. "Sometimes they have military issue items like uniforms or guns. I think it will be very interesting what people have been holding on to all these years and passing down in their families."

A traveling exhibit will debut at the Wood County Fair next year, and another exhibit will be in place at the historical center when it opens for its 2011 season in April, she said.

Why devote all this effort to something that happened 150 years ago?

"We think it is really important to take a look at the Civil War. We have things that occur to us, that happen to us in our lifetimes, that we think are dramatic," Ms. Weininger Raber said. Such an event can be viewed as an immense crisis, similar to how people in the 1860s viewed the Civil War.

"They did not know if the country was going to hold together. They did not know if the U.S. was going to survive," Ms. Weininger Raber said. "It was a big crisis, and there are lessons to be learned from that.

"We can look to them for such emotional things as hope and inspiration. We can look at what they went through and how they survived and how they pulled through. There were a lot of heroes."

Heroes on the battlefield and on the home front, Ms. Weininger Raber said.

"Women and children who kept the farms running and the family together. That is very inspirational. I think just as we don't want people to forget what we are going through, they would not want us to forget what they went through. There is always an educational lesson here," she said.

"We need to go back and look. If we suddenly forgot everything that had happened, there would be no way for us to move forward."

Committee members are researching regimental records to learn more about local soldiers who served and died during the war. More than 2,000 Wood County men served in the Union military forces, and about 450 died.

"Disease was the No. 1 killer in the war," Ms. Weininger Raber said. "Most soldiers did not die on the battlefield. The actual caring for the soldiers was by our standards pretty crude. Surgeons often did not wash their hands as they would go from soldier to soldier so infections would carry right to other patients.

"People were noticing that. After the war, there were major changes and many improvements in medical care," she said.

The committee is just starting its research, she said.

"I think we will find a lot of interesting stories. A lot of families have oral traditions passed down from their relatives. We will do our best to record all those, to make sure those stories are preserved in some way."

Ms. Weininger Raber said the story researched by Mrs. Justus about the son who didn't come home is a "very touching story. It brings their loss home in a very personal level."

Randy Brown of Perrysburg, curator at the Wood County Historical Center & Museum, said northwest Ohio is sort of an unrecognized area when it comes to Civil War history, perhaps because no battles occurred here. However, "lots of men from Wood County were in the Union Army. We will try to tell their stories."

Even though Ohio was far away from battles, "the war very much impacted northwest Ohio," said Mr. Brown, who is putting together for the sesquicentennial an exhibit about Wood County in specific and northwest Ohio in general, focusing not only on what happened during the war but what occurred afterward.

A statewide committee is encouraging each and every county to do something in observance of the sesquicentennial, he said, noting he's not aware of any county more organized than Wood.

The sesquicentennial will be observed from 2011-2015, and Mr. Brown predicted most special events and programs will be held during the first year.

Wood County's sesquicentennial committee includes representatives from the North Baltimore Historical Society, the Grand Rapids Area Historical Society, the Wood County Genealogy Society, the Perrysburg Area Historic Museum, Historic Perrysburg, the 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (a re-enactment group), and the Wood County Historical Society.

Programs for schools, cemetery walks, and a re-enactment also are in the works.

Contact Janet Romaker

at jromaker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6006.



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