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Robert Moses State Park hosts annual Civil War re-enactment

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MASSENA — Flags and rifles were raised Sunday during a re-enactment battle at Robert Moses State Park for the 12th annual Civil War Weekend presented by the St. Lawrence County Historical Association.

The event began Saturday and continued through the weekend with tents, horses, guns, artillery and more than 100 participants in period costume forming the Union and Confederate armies.

“We wanted to find a way to engage families and children in history,” said J. Susanne Longshore, event coordinator and collections manager for the Historical Association. “We need to understand our past to know where we’re going, and this is the best way to do it, with immersion in history.”

Cortney A. Shatraw, Watertown, brought her four children to see the re-enactment Sunday. She said her family enjoyed taking pictures with Abraham Lincoln, seeing the cavalry riders and the battle that took place and buying items from the Civil War period.

“We came out for the educational experience,” she said. “It’s been fun for everybody.”

Mrs. Longshore said New York state is known for sending the largest numbers of men, materials and money to the Civil War effort.

“St. Lawrence County alone sent nearly 7,000 men,” she said.

William D. Mayers, Rome, has been re-enacting for 13 years and portrayed a surgeon for the Union army. He had several tool kits, medicines and bullets on display to demonstrate what life would be like as a surgeon in the Civil War.

“The No. 1 kit is the capital amputation kit, named after the capital saw,” he said. “It was a life-saving procedure to amputate.”

Mr. Mayers said the reason the Civil War was one of America’s bloodiest wars is because of the way people were mangled on the battlefield. Research indicates that 750,000 to 800,000 people were killed during the Civil War.

“No matter where you lived in America, you were affected in one way or another by these losses,” Mr. Mayers said.

Mr. Mayers said that the role women played during the Civil War often gets overlooked. His wife, Carol J., and their friend Peggy L. Reilly, North Syracuse, who both participated as re-enactors, said women sent out care packages by the millions.

“They’d send anything from food, clothes, socks, books, newspapers, letters, pictures and anything from home,” Mrs. Mayers said. “There were 400 documented females who disguised themselves and served as soldiers.”

John R. Baylis, Cassville, has done Civil War re-enacting for more than 30 years and usually portrays President Abraham Lincoln.

“It was a very traumatic time in our history,” he said.

Mr. Baylis said the large number of casualties in the war, along with the loss of Lincoln’s son, William, caused a great amount of stress for the wartime president.

“I would like to emulate him as closely as I can,” he said. “There probably wasn’t anybody before or since who could’ve brought this country through the condition that it was in better than he could.”



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