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Festival offers glimpse of past


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Hope’s town square was alive with history Saturday as re-enactors portraying Civil War soldiers and President Abraham Lincoln united for the fourth annual Hope Civil War Days, which continues today.

Representing members of Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace’s 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, volunteers gave visitors a glimpse into the life of a Civil War soldier, from uniforms and firearms to battlefield medical procedures.

With the call of his bugle, Shawn Bentz alerted the soldiers it was time to return to camp.

The company had been off collecting firewood, but the call from Bentz meant it was time for lunch. The lunch sound was just one of 70 calls that Civil War regimental musicians were required to learn and play.

“I don’t think people realize the significant role music played in the Civil War,” said Bentz, a local music teacher. “Musicians kept soldiers together on the battlefield with drum cadences, and they communicated vital messages like when to charge, when to retreat, when to go to bed and when to wake up. ‘Taps,’ at one time, was played as a way to lull men to sleep.”

There was a slight problem with Civil War bugle alerts, Bentz said.

“Everyone used the same calls, even the Confederates,” he said. “So if you heard a call, it might not have been for your company. And everyone could hear what your next move was going to be.”

Steve Coffman, event organizer, said many Hoosiers do not realize the impact Indiana soldiers had on the war.

Approximately 203,000 Indiana soldiers fought in the Civil War. That was 15 percent of the state’s total population at the time, which was 1.3 million. Of those who fought, 24,000 Indiana soldiers died and 50,000 were injured.

Indiana State Museum Historian Fred Schaefer demonstrated to visitors how battlefield injuries were treated. Schafer said more than 620,000 soldiers died between 1861 and 1865.

“The devastation of this war forced people to re-examine the methods and technologies of the medical art,” Schaefer said. “Many of the men died from disease, not from injuries of the war.”

Coffman, who has assumed the role of a private in Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace’s 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry for 12 years, said he participates to honor his ancestors who fought in the war. Three of Coffman’s great-great-great grandfathers and one great-great-great uncle fought in the Civil War.

“The Civil War has always fascinated me, but when I found out about my family members who had served, I knew that I needed to do this to honor them,” Coffman said. “I love history, and it kind of seems like it’s dying out. But, we need to remember these soldiers because they fought to keep our nation as one.”

Barbara Wiltsey brought her granddaughter Grace to the event to show her what life was like 150 years ago.

“I think they should know how we got where we are today so they can appreciate how people used to live and how we live today,” Wiltsey said.

Grace said she is glad she lives in today’s world, rather than during the Civil War era.

“The guns were really loud, and there was a lot of violence,” Grace said. “Plus we have so much more technology. It would be a lot harder to live back then.”

Learning about history is important, Grace said. “It’s what happened in our world.”

At Hope’s Moravian Cemetery, area historians and actors portrayed local residents who either participated in or were affected by the Civil War. Saturday also featured the grand opening of the Bartholomew County Historical Society’s Haw Creek Heritage Center, and a fashion show featuring original pieces and custom-made outfits based on fashions worn from 1776 to 1946.

The festival continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today.

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