Friday, July 1, 2016

Third Maine encampment draws history buffs to the Village Green - By Michelle Libby

The Third Maine encampment set up on the Windham Historical Society’s Village Green last weekend to demonstrate how soldiers and their families might have lived 155 years ago, during the Civil War. With tents, a campfire, a chef and a doctor, the small 1861 camp allowed visitors to walk among the area and ask questions of the infantry. Many of them played a character, but all of them are volunteers and have a love of history. 

“It’s a gift to the community. We didn’t charge admission. We wanted to educate about history. Three hundred Windham veterans fought in the Civil War,” said president of the Windham Historical Society Linda Griffin.

On Saturday, the regiment did infantry drills, firing demonstrations, musical concerts and more events all open to the public. On Sunday, there were many of the same types of events, including the arrival of doughnuts, which they used their bayonets to serve the treats. 
From the Third Maine’s Facebook page, they said, “Today we re-enacted the most delicious page of the 3rd Maine history - the delivery of donuts to the troops! The ladies of Augusta did this at the muster of the 3rd Regiment of Maine Volunteers in 1861. 155 years later the boys still love donuts.”
“It was very hot and there were a lot of other activities going on, but they still did it and enjoyed it,” said Griffin. The best attended programs were the drills where they shot the rifles. 

During one of the infantry drill and firing demonstrations, the almost 30 spectators watched as the regiment demonstrated how to fire the 11 to 13 pound rifles and how the front lines might have attacked during a battle. 
“As an officer I don’t want them thinking,” said David Gowen, the captain of Company A. He gave orders to the sergeant, who then ordered the soldiers. 

Firing a Springfield and Enfield replica muskets is a nine step process. The soldiers demonstrated the procedure for the crowd and fired into the field. The organized chaos was set up in a pyramid type fashion with the soldiers on the front line, then the sergeants passing orders on to them, then the captains of which there were fewer of and finally the generals on horseback who could see most of what was going on and they passed the orders down the chain to the front lines. The sergeants’ jobs were to make sure the men didn’t run away, according to Gowen. Third Maine is an incorporated, non-profit, educational organization. According to their website they are “dedicated to preserving the memory of Maine's role in the American Civil War. Through living history events, battle reenactments, and educational presentations we work to teach others about what life was like for Maine soldiers and civilians during the years 1861 - 1865. We also strive to serve as a living memorial to all of the people who gave their lives during the war, and in doing so gave us these United States of America.”
Officers in the re-enactment company are elected by the members in the 50 to 60 person group.
“There’s less history interests in general in the country,” said Gowen, referring to the declining number in the audience and in the regiment. 

A family from Waterville read about the encampment and decided to stop by on Saturday. On the way home the children were interested in returning on Sunday. The man told Griffin, “If my children are interested I make sure it happens for them.” They returned and staying the whole day on Sunday.
The re-enactors commented on the loud cannons going off Saturday night, but they said they enjoyed the fireworks from Summerfest. get involved with the Third Maine and be a part of living history it costs around $2,000, but the actors get years of service from their uniforms, Gowen said. He told the audience that although none of the gear used this weekend was original to the Civil War, this is good because the items last longer for the re-enactors. Soldiers used to drop a rifle when it jammed or broke. They would pick up a new one on the road, Gowen said. Now, the rifles are more durable and since each costs approximately $500 to $700 they aren’t disposable. The Third Maine marches in parades, sets up encampments, although Windham was their only encampment in Maine this season, does memorials and more. They have a form on their website for those interested in having them come to their event. The encampment was paid for by the Windham Historical Society. Next year they would like to try to have a Revolutionary War re-enactment group come. “We are really hoping it will help keep history alive to the community,” said Griffin. 

The Third Maine’s next big event is a re-enactment at the 155th anniversary of the First Bull Run in Middletown, VA, on July 22-24.

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