5:17 pm Aug. 13, 2012
This weekend, Governor's Island was invaded by Long Island's 119th Volunteer Company, a local group of re-enactors who have re-created an actual volunteer company from 1863. As part of the Island's Civil War Weekend, put on by the National Parks Service, the dedicated troops camped out on Soldiers Field, eating, sleeping, marching, and relaxing in period fashion—or as closely as possible. Below are some highlights from Saturday's action, on and off the battlefield.
A mock-up of a recruitment poster from 1863, calling for volunteers for Long Island's 119th Volunteer Company. Civil War Weekend included a history lesson on the New York City draft riots, which occurred that same year, and were the largest insurrection in America's history. President Abraham Lincoln called in soldiers from Gettysburg to put down the insurrection, and more than a hundred people died.
Steve Clifton, (standing) and Bill Carmen have been volunteers with the 119th for fifteen years. Clifton, a court officer from Queens, was originally enlisted when his son joined as a drummer for the company. Though his son is less involved these days, Clifton keeps the fight going. It is a family affair for both officers. Carmen's great-grandfather, Private John Carmen, was a member or the original company and fought at Gettysburg.
Carmen gives a history lesson to a bicyclist/potential recruit.
A soldier gets some shut-eye, but keeps his weapon within arm's reach.
Going over battle strategy.
The troops fall in and prepare for a weapons demonstration.
Picnickers and passersby watched as the boys in blue primed, papered, ramrod-ed, and fired their guns (using blanks, of course).
The 119th takes their reenacting seriously, striving for accuracy wherever possible, from the hand-stitched wool uniforms to the historically accurate food they ate throughout the camp, mostly potatoes, ham, pickles, bread, and preserved fruit—like these cherries.
"In a well-trained unit, it's 'bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.'" explained First Lieutenant Pete Bedrossian to the crowd. "Whether you're a Civil War soldier, or a 21st-century re-enactor, weapons safety is very important. You do not want to be bayoneted." Next Bedrossian told the story of that one time he was actually bayoneted during field practice/rehearsal to the Goldstone family of Brooklyn. "If I'd gone to the E.R., I'd be on the fourth floor in the mental institution." The Goldstones came to Governor's Island just to catch the Civil War Weekend.
A soldier looks out into the future
"Hello ladies, you look lovely today," said Bill Carmen and Pete Bedrossian, greeting Marianne Guglieri, Marilyn DeGeorge, and Cathy Mongello as they prepared a meal and some iced tea for the officers of the company. When they were all seated with drinks, the men toasted, "To the Union."
Later in the afternoon, a game of Civil War-era "base ball" was set up.
Fiddle and harmonica could be heard around the island.
The vending machines were not blockaded.
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