Saturday, October 18, 2003

Civil War recruiters at work

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEWPORT - The Union was saved on the banks of the Ohio River Friday morning and all it took was six 9-year-old boys from St. Columban School in Loveland taking a step back in time.

In a cold, drizzling rain Friday morning, at the Civil War encampment in Newport's Taylor Park at the mouth of the Licking River, the six boys on a school field trip to Tall Stacks got more than they bargained for. They were inducted into the 18th Independent Light Artillery by two of the Civil War re-enactors who have been bivouacked on the riverbank since the festival began.

Mark Regensburger of Mount Washington, a sergeant in the Indiana-based re-enactors group, and David Brown of Indianapolis, a private and the battery's musician, put the boys through their paces, teaching them to form ranks and columns and how to march Civil War-style.

"Now we close ranks; that means you line up with your shoulder touching your buddy's shoulder,'' said Brown, wearing his authentic artillery private's uniform.

"Face me,'' he barked. The boys - Nathan Creech, Phillip Kepler, Anthony Carlson in the front row; Will Piening, Christian Moeller, Max Gregson in the rear - instantly snapped around.

"Now you're in a column,'' Brown said. "Now the sergeant is going to teach you how to march.''

Regensburger marched them left-right, left-right up from the white canvas tents of the encampment to the road that runs along the bottom of the river levee. Brown ran about 30 yards ahead with his bugle, stopped, and played the bugle call to form ranks.

The Loveland boys marched straight to him and came to a crisp, clean stop.

"Perfect,'' Brown said. "You are now soldiers of the Union Army.

You will be paid $13 a month and you will sleeps in tents like those,'' the private said, pointing to the tents.

"That looks pretty small to live in,'' Anthony said.

As the Loveland boys scampered away with their teacher, Regensburger, Brown and the rest of the 18th Independent Light Artillery walked around the camp waiting for the next group of school kids to come by.

For Tall Stacks, Regensburger said, the re-enactors have a specific scenario they are trying to act out - it is 1862; they are a militia unit bivouacked in Newport, waiting for their new cannons to be forged in Pittsburgh and brought downriver. When the cannons arrive by flatboat, they will ship out for the Civil War's western theater, probably central Tennessee.

Each of the half-dozen soldiers at the encampment is meticulously dressed in period military uniforms - uniforms that cost them hundreds of dollars. This year, the group has performed in battle re-enactments in Georgetown, Ky.; Jackson, Mich.; and at the Perryville battlefield in central Kentucky.

"It takes a lot of time and there's a lot of expense involved, but for every one of us this is a kind of passion to recreate what it was like for the common soldier back then,'' said Regensburger, whose "civilian' job is at Great American Insurance here. "It takes a different breed to be a re-enactor.''


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