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Re-enacting the Civil War in Westfield

June 15, 2017
By Tonja Dodd - , Westfield Republican

History came to life in Westfield last weekend! The 9th New York Cavalry encampment was constructed in Moore Park.

The "Standing Ground: a Civil War Living History Event" featured many events. A flag-raising ceremony commenced the re-enactment Saturday morning. Demonstrations and unscripted history lessons were presented to the public at individual family tents throughout the day.

A Civil War letter reading was performed at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. Event organizer and Chautauqua County Historical Society Trustee David Brown led a group of youth in reading excerpts of love letters exchanged between several soldiers and one young lady, Lawanda A. Lake from Charlotte Center. Luke Stephenson, a Westfield Academy and Central School high schooler, was one of the young men who read aloud a letter, acting as a Civil War soldier sweet on Lake. Luke is an avid Civil War history buff and enjoys the historical roleplaying, in addition to earning volunteer credits for school.

Article Photos

Photo by Tonja Dodd
Left, Dave Bodamer of Clymer acts as General Sickles, the Union Third Corps Commander of NY. Next to him, Justin Niles of tallahassee, Florida acts as a 64th Virginia mounted infantry soldier. The soldiers were part of the 'Standing Ground: a Civil War Living History Event' in Westfield's Moore Park, Saturday.

Evident from the letters, the Union soldier letter writers were very well educated, penning eloquently about the war and their adoration of the young Lake. One letter writer, Edwin Wright, was a hometown boy also from Charlotte Center and later Portland. Young Edwin Wright was a member of the 9th New York Calvary who mustered in Brocton. The soldier served four years in the Civil War in the Shenandoah battles and upon his return home, states in a letter to Lake, he now "feels like a stranger" - lonely and detached from the rest of society - a lesson we could learn from, concerning modern-day war veterans.

Lake was also very sharp and wrote back in verse. Also of note was the reference all three soldiers and Lake made about God's guidance, free love and the burgeoning religion of Spiritualism.

In addition to the Union's 9th New York Cavalry actor camp, the 64th Virginia mounted infantry, representing Confederates, set up camp. The legions re-enacted skirmishes throughout the weekend, as well. The Rebel Greys captured the Union flag in the Saturday afternoon conflict.

Children participated in gun, craft and toy demonstrations led by volunteer period campers. The encampment was an authentically simulated Civil War camp. For example, tents had simple cots and befitting accouterments. Re-enactor campers, young and old, were dressed in Civil War period clothing.

The Civil War hobbyists who came from all over for the weekend have forged friendships over the years. Jamie Smith of Strykersville comes every year and has used this encampment opportunity to bring history to life for her children who she home-schools. She has met many other families who do the same and finds it to be a very enriching hobby. Her friends, Bryon and Maureen Fisher, showcased their personal Civil War period handguns and toys. Bryon Fisher is very interested in the soldiers' perspectives on the war and has 200 books in a personal library in Silver Springs.

To close out Saturday's encampment event, the Chautauqua County Historical Society hosted its 2017 Summer Gala fundraiser at 6 p.m. Candlelight tours around the camp were held starting at 8 p.m. before actors turned in for the night. Finally, a "Civil War Service" took place Sunday at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. The sermon, select hymns and activities in Civil War period fashion took effect.



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