March 20, 2019
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Civil War history comes to life in Bangor

Courtesy of Steve Wood
Courtesy of Steve Wood
Steve Wood as President Abraham Lincoln will visit Bangor as part of the Bangor Historical Society's weekend event Drums on the Penobscot: A Civil War Experience.

Carolyne Sauda thought she’d learned a lot about the War Between the States from Ken Burns’ nine-episode documentary “The Civil War.”

But after visiting Gettysburg earlier this summer and a re-enactment Sunday in Bangor, the 13-year-old believes that living-history events are the best way to learn about the past.

“I didn’t know Bangor had Civil War things like this and I live in Bangor,” she said after touring the Union and Confederate encampments Sunday at the Bangor campus of the University of Maine at Augusta with her dad, Michael Sauda, 54, of Bangor.

“We saw things that we didn’t know about, including the amount of food, clothing and medical supplies people from Maine sent to the troops,” Michael Sauda said.

One of the things Carolyne Sauda liked best about visiting the re-enactment was talking to the participants, who are very knowledgeable about the details of the war’s impact on individual soldiers and their families.

The Saudas also met President Abraham Lincoln, portrayed by New Hampshire resident Steve Wood, who was accompanied by Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln, played by Wood’s wife, Sharon.

“He looks really realistic and he has a really good way with how he uses words,” Carolyne Sauda said of Wood’s portrayal of Lincoln.

Wood, 74, of Claremont, New Hampshire, graduated in the 1970s from the University of Maine School of Forestry. He didn’t think he looked like Lincoln much until he shaved off his handlebar moustache in the mid-1990s to portray Lincoln in a re-creation of the Lincoln-Douglas debates for the local library.

Wood chose Sunday to deliver to the re-enactors the speech Lincoln delivered Aug. 31, 1864, to the members of the 148th Ohio Regiment, who were being furloughed from service so they could go home and vote.

“In that speech, I encouraged them to maintain their loyalty to the country and the old flag, to not be dissuaded by designing men who appeal to their pocketbooks or their prejudices, and to maintain their loyalty to Union,” Wood said.

It was the 1864 version of a campaign stop, he said.

Lincoln was re-elected with 55 percent of the vote but with 78 percent of the soldier vote, Jonathan W. White, an American studies professor at Christopher Newport University, wrote in article for The New York Times on the 150th anniversary of that election.

Judy Harrison | BDN
Judy Harrison | BDN
Tim Perkins, 72, of Boxford, Massachusetts, butters his bread for lunch with the Confederate troops on Saturday during Drums on the Penobscot: A Civil War Experience. Perkins has been taking part in re-enactments since 1992.

Blaikie Hines, 68, of Thomaston manned the United States Christian Commission tent where the Soudas learned of how much Mainers contributed to the war effort. The organization was founded in 1861 in New York City by national leaders in the Young Men’s Christian Association.

Hines became interested in Civil War history when he was a teenager and attended the Centennial of the Battle of Gettysburg with his father and grandfather 1963.

“My grandfather was a Lutheran minister,” he said. “He graduated in 1905 so he knew veterans and told stories they had told him about the battles. When you can make history personal, it really comes alive.”

The general aim of the commission was “to promote the spiritual and temporal welfare of the soldiers in the Army and the sailors in the Navy, in cooperation with the chaplains,” according to information posted on the website of the commission’s northwest branch.

“The organization recruited ministers, deacons and laymen from hometowns all over the North to help minister to the dying and the wounded but also to help identify the dead,” Hines said. “Soldiers carried no identification, so often just the people from their home churches knew who they were.”

Judy Harrison | BDN
Judy Harrison | BDN
A member of Maine Company D with the 2nd U.S. Sharp Shooters placed this sign outside his tent Saturday at the Union Army's encampment during Drums on the Penobsoct: A Civil War Experience at the University of Maine at Augusta's Bangor campus.

Women’s auxiliaries also were formed and they helped raise funds for the commission’s work.

During its four years of operation, the commission sent nearly 5,000 unarmed agents into the field, distributed 95,000 packages, which included nearly 1.5 million Bibles or books of Scripture, 1 million hymnals and more than 39 million pages of religious tracts, the website said. It’s estimated the money raised for the commission’s work was about $6.2 million.

This was the second year that the Bangor Historical Society has sponsored the Civil War re-enactment.

“We love this event,” Executive Director Melissa Gerety said in announcing the two-day program. “It’s a way for the community to get an up-close look at what life was like for soldiers who served in the Civil War and to learn a bit more about the roles Mainers had in it.”

Gerety said Sunday that twice as many people participated as re-enactors this year and there were twice as many visitors to the camp than last year. An event Saturday night on the Bangor Waterfront featuring Wood as Lincoln was sold out.

Gerety said the Bangor Historical Society plans to sponsor another re-enactment in 2020 for the 200th anniversary of Maine acquiring statehood.

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