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A couple of camps away, a sergeant demonstrated to children how to fire a musket. The children held wooden “muskets” and followed marching orders. “This musket gets so hot during the battle that you will not be able to handle it — you will get second-degree burns,” said the sergeant.
Those left behind
In a quiet corner, Joann Bergman of Hastings, a retired teacher, played the role of a soldier’s wife, spinning wool. “If we didn’t have spinners, the gentlemen here wouldn’t have their wool uniforms,” she said.
During the Civil War, the South didn’t share its supply of cotton. Women were left to farm in place of their husbands.
“Women were a real important part of what was going on — they were the backbone,” Bergman said.
The U.S. Christian Commission helped wounded soldiers write letters back home. Pam Henderson sat at that camp sewing pamphlets of stories.
“I appreciate the resourcefulness they had,” Henderson said. “They didn’t use machines for simple things that we kind of take for granted.”
At the Ladies’ Aid Society, Marie McNamara said she was living history. “You can read a book about it,” she said, “but here, people can smell it and hear it and walk through it and touch it.”
Today, members of the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry — a re-enactment group — educate people about the Civil War. John Guthmann, corporal musician, sat at a camp playing a string banjo.
“The Civil War had a huge impact on Minnesota,” Guthmann said. “Nearly half of able-bodied males were gone to war. Just try to imagine something like that happening today.
“But back then, we’re talking about an agrarian society where everyone farmed. Businesses were having trouble. The people left behind were struggling. But life goes on.”
Re-enactors of the Missouri Irregulars, the “rebels,” sat far from other camps, played by interpreters from The Landing in Shakopee.
“Once you understand your past, you can use that to guide your future,” said The Landing’s program coordinator, Rich Williams.
Mike Murray said the event was valuable. “It’s one thing to say they cooked over a fire,” he said. “It’s another thing to stand next to it and feel how hot it is on a daily basis.”
Liala Helal • 952-746-3286