PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — To mark the 150th anniversary this year of the Civil War, the local historical society is planning a re-enactment.
“The cry goes out this month for volunteers to serve the federal government in a ‘recruiting drive’ re-enactment to be held on Saturday, April 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Aroostook Centre Mall,” said Kim Smith, treasurer/recording secretary for the Presque Isle Historical Society.
The historical society and Company B, 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Civil War re-enactors, will have booths set up Saturday, according to Smith.
An Easton man who has been actively involved in re-enactments at various venues in recent years is serving as one of the event’s organizers.
Paul Dudley, president of the 20th Maine unit, explained, “The recruiting drive recalls activities in Maine following President Lincoln’s proclamation for 75,000 volunteers made April 15, 1861.”
Dudley said Lincoln’s action was prompted by the bombardment days earlier (April 12) of Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C.’s harbor by confederate batteries of seceded southern states.
“The recruitment drive is intended to recall what a call-up would look like in 1861, as the War Between the States began,” said Dudley.
Re-enactors, using a few props and recruiting posters, will appear as regular soldiers in order to give a military impression to passers-by.
Dudley said, “It is to be a form of ‘street theater’ to mark the sesquicentennial.”
Broadside pamphlets giving newspaper accounts of Lincoln’s proclamation and sample enlistment forms will be distributed as souvenirs. The Presque Isle Historical Society will present authentic Civil War memorabilia. The society’s display will include an officer’s Civil War sword and a Civil War promotion certificate.
“We wanted to do something to kick off Maine’s Civil War sesquicentennial,” Dudley said. “What better way than through a recruiting drive depicting the day’s events after Lincoln’s call? The state of Maine, its citizens and other northern states responded in a large way when these events unfolded 150 years ago.”
Dudley said it’s important to remember how significant these formative years were to our modern era.
“In spite of its small population, Maine contributed more soldiers and sailors, per capita, during the Civil War than any other state in the Union,” he said.
Maine soldiers played a significant role in the war, participating in a number of battles.
“Maine regiments were present at critical engagements of the American Civil War, such as Fredericksburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, and numerous other battles,” said Dudley.
Formed August 1862, the 20th Maine, under Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain, distinguished itself at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. Company B, 20th Maine, “strives to present authentic impressions of the Civil War and honor its namesake regiment,” said Dudley.