By Mary Spicer
There’s just one thing you need to know about living history: There’s no fast-forward button.
Starting Saturday morning, Muster in the Park will feature 95 to 120 Civil War reenactors taking up residence in downtown Meadville’s historic Diamond Park. For two days, they’ll be doing the things and talking about the ideas that were being done and talked about 150 years ago — in real time.
With period music in the background, uniformed “boys in blue,” women and children dressed in period attire will conduct their daily lives. Whether they’re cooking over open fires, engaging in military drills, displaying the latest in modern weaponry — including Richard Gatling’s brand-new gun at the time — demonstrating the medical techniques required to tend to a whole new realm of wounds, playing period games or modeling the latest in 1860s fashion, the public is invited to attend.
The event is free and open to the public of all ages; food will be available for purchase.
The organizer of the event, the 150th Pennsylvania Bucktails, is a Civil War Reenacting Unit presenting school talks and demonstrations within Crawford County as well as participating in living history programs and reenactments in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Virginia.
The story of the Bucktails itself will be told throughout the event; however, in addition to distinguishing the group by its gallant stand at McPherson’s Ridge during the battle of Gettysburg, Company K of the Bucktails was also known as “Lincoln’s Guards.”
On Aug. 28, 1862, many members of the three companies that made up the 150th Bucktails mustered in at the Diamond.
Soldiers, however, won’t be the only focus of the weekend’s festivities. The various roles of women during the period will be portrayed, including a display by Meadville’s Center for Family Services, a group that originally formed in 1863 under the banner of the Home Relief Society.
Within Diamond Park, the gazebo, a large tent and the area surrounding the American Flag and Soldiers Monument, which faces south down South Main Street, will be the sites of an ever-changing series of half-hour presentations beginning at quarter-to and quarter-past each hour. (10:15 to 10:45; 10:45 to 11:15, etc.)
Sunday, an hour-long Civil War Church Service will begin at 10 a.m.; the public is invited to bring chairs.
The way it was...
The Diamond Park of 150 years ago was a very different place than the Diamond Park of today, but several of the buildings overlooking the scene today also stood witness to the original Muster in the Park back in 1862.
Before the fountain that stands today in the center of the park was donated to the city by the Shippen family after the civil war, the Diamond was a commons covered with packed dirt where drovers housed their cattle overnight and local militia troops trained.
Along the west side of the Diamond, the three-story structure at No. 916, just south of West Cherry Street, was only two stories high when it was built in 1830 by attorney and judge David Derickson. When Derickson sold it to attorney H.L. Richmond in 1848, Richmond enlarged the building by adding the third floor. Both attorneys used the small building next door at No. 918, which also is believed to date back to 1830, as their law offices.
Derickson built the massive Second Empire Victorian house at No. 902 in 1848, moving there after selling No. 916. Derickson’s Nephew, also named David, was captain of Company K of the 150th.
Only one of the church buildings now overlooking the Diamond was in place during the original muster. Founded by the Huidekoper and Shippen families, the Unitarian Church was constructed on the southeast corner of Chestnut and South Main streets and dedicated in 1836. The sanctuary of the church, now known as the Unitarian Universalist Church of Meadville, will be open to the public for viewing and contemplation Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The way it will be...
While organizers are hoping that the event will become an annual celebration of Meadville’s distinguished past, they have a more immediate goal in mind. Donations will be gratefully accepted for the Bucktails’ Save Our Statue project — a complete restoration of the park’s Civil War statue.
Installed in 1890, the statue portrays Samuel Pfeiffer, the flag bearer for the 150th Bucktails. Now cracked and corroded, the statue needs to have cracks and holes in the bronze repaired and the sandstone base repainted with new mortar in addition to being cleaned and re-coated. Through grants, donations and fundraising efforts, the group hopes to have the necessary funds collected within the next five years.
“We’ll at least make it an annual event until the statue is restored,” organizer Bob Mattocks told the Tribune. However, the group has an even longer-term goal — to get younger members of the community so excited about Civil War history that they’ll get involved and carry on the tradition. “It’s a great family thing to do for a weekend,” Mattocks said.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Muster in the Park
Meadville’s Diamond Park will be the scene of Muster in the Park, a living history event hosted by the 150th Pennsylvania Bucktails reenacting unit.
The event is free and open to the public of all ages.
Begins at 9 a.m. with cannon fire and a fife and drum performance.
Schedules will be available at the event; tentative plans include half-hour sessions beginning at quarter-to and quarter-past each hour on topics including:
The history of Samuel Pfeiffer, the flagbearer portrayed on the Civil War memorial at the southern end of the park;
Women in the ranks, uniforms, 150th regimental history;
“Hometown Hero” talks on a variety of topics;
Demonstrations featuring cavalry, Gatling guns and medical techniques of the day; a period fashion show, ladies tea fundraiser; drilling, marching and musical presentations.
The evening will end with “Taps” at 9 p.m.
The event opens at 9 a.m. with cannon fire followed by a military drill and marching.
A Civil War church service will begin at 10 a.m.; attendees are invited to bring folding chairs.
Half-hour talks and demonstrations will begin at quarter-after and quarter-to each hour beginning at 11:15 a.m.
Closing ceremonies will begin at 12:30 p.m.