Friday, July 08, 2011

“Bordertown”


c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved
(6-11)


A few weeks ago, I wrote about being contacted by relatives from Brunswick, who are Civil War reenactors. Bringing the past to life, they regularly play the roles of a military surgeon and his wife/assistant. Through careful study and the collecting of period-correct artifacts, they have developed a living exhibit that is both compelling and informative.

Uncle Larry is a Navy veteran. Aunt Carol is a lifelong family historian.
They suggested that I might join them as a reporter from that era. Afterward, a search of regional newspaper archives revealed that our local journal at the time was ‘The Jeffersonian Democrat’ published in Chardon.

I decided to visit strictly as an observer. But the lure of that era was strong.

On June 18th and 19th, the Lake County Historical Society’s Civil War 150th Anniversary events transpired. Their encampment was an impressive display of yesteryear, revived.

The theme for both days was ‘Bordertown.’ Represented was a village from 1861, split in half by the line that divided Virginia and Maryland. Additionally, this community was separated by something greater still – a question of Union loyalty or Confederate secession.

While Maryland remained steadfast in supporting the nation, Virginia chose to secede in April of that year. Their decision made a greater war unavoidable:

“Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain, That the ordinance adopted by the people of this State in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying and adopting amendments to said Constitution, are hereby repealed and abrogated; that the union between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Constitution aforesaid is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignty which belong and appertain to a free and independent State. And they do further declare, That said Constitution of the United States of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this State.”

Bordertown had everything that one might expect in that decade. Included were soldiers, common folk, a minister, traveling musicians, a laundry service, a local tavern, undertaker, and even Madame Lily’s ‘Chateau de Repose’ bordello.

The mayor of Bordertown gave a rousing stump speech, in defense of President Lincoln and the Union cause. But when some in the crowd grew angry with his tone, he was shot.

The local sheriff claimed not to have seen who was responsible. His Confederate sympathies were obvious.

A distinctive bark of black-powder rifles echoed across the landscape throughout this event. There were shouts of encouragement and good cheer on both sides. But also prevalent were silent emblems of an earlier time. A blacksmith’s anvil. Cast-iron cookware hanging by the fire. Canvas tents and clay pots. A wooden cross above the chapel.

As the daylight faded on Sunday, Uncle Larry reminisced about having been a reenactor for twenty-four years. He spoke of becoming fascinated with this habit after participating in an encampment at Gettysburg.

While he mused over the bygone years, I watched the sunset, and pondered the life of a Geauga reporter… in 1861.

Contact:
The Lake County Historical Society
415 Riverside Drive
Painesville Twp., OH 44077
440-639-2945


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