Meadville Tribune

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August 31, 2013

Blasts from the past in Diamond Park

MEADVILLE — A literal blast from the past wound back the clock in Diamond Park as cannon fire gave visitors the first taste of Civil War-era Meadville at the living history encampment Saturday morning.

Muster in the Park, presented by the 150th Pennsylvania Bucktails, saw a full crowd of spectators well into the afternoon, filling the circle of canvas tents that surrounded the Diamond and the Civil War reenactors that set up camp Friday night.

“Did you ever sleep in Diamond Park?” asked Chris Levis of Saegertown, pointing out his tiny soldier’s tent for interested onlookers. “I have to sleep in it diagonally or else my legs stick out.”

Outfitted in traditional Bucktails garb, Levis had no complaints as he played true to his role as a Company “K” soldier, personal bodyguard to Abraham Lincoln.

Ohio native John King portrayed our nation’s 16th president throughout the day, walking around the park in a black suit and top hat, sharing the occasional witticism in classic Lincoln-esque fashion.

“This is a wonderful venue,” King said. “There are a lot of good programs and displays. The audience is incredible and willing to learn.”

Each tent housed a different piece of Civil War-era history, from an enlistment tent and tavern to a medical booth and civilian camps, usually occupied by reenactors in wool and cotton clothing typical of the 1860s.

“In 1862 this is actually where we did the recruiting,” said Terry Bowersox, clad in Bucktails uniform. “It wasn’t this fancy back then, though. It was more like a pasture where farmers brought their livestock.”

Activities throughout the day included cannon demonstrations, historical talks about Meadville’s involvement in the Civil War and military drills with musket fire.

By the late afternoon, the scent of burning coals replaced the smell of gunpowder as spectators gathered around Richard Young’s portable forge, watching him craft a candle-holder by hand to the sound of a distant fife and drum.

“I’ve always had an interest in antique crafts and history,” said Young, of Jamestown, who spent hours at his anvil making frying pans and other period metalworks. “I concentrate on my fire and tools and when I look up, I’ll see a line in front of me, watching me work.”

Other exhibits offered information and relics of the past, like the stand showing letters and pictures of the Civil War’s Invalid Corps, the unsung heroes of the U.S. capital, according to historian Bret Schweinfurth.

“This unit defended Washington, D.C., in 1864,” he explained. “They’re the reason D.C. stands today.”

The Invalid Corps was named for being the only unit in American history that utilized soldiers who became ill or wounded in the line of duty, Schweinfurth added.

Other tents featured artillery artifacts and weaponry, including canister shrapnel, musket balls and an officer’s sword.

“This event was excellent,” Levis said. “I’m very impressed with the turnout from the community.”

And he was happy to report that throughout his day guarding the president, no one made a single attempt on Lincoln’s life.

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