Civil War encampment makes stop at Harbor Park
Camden — People visiting Camden's Harbor Park over the weekend got a chance to catch a glimpse of what it was like to live in a Union encampment during the Civil War
Company B, 20th Maine – a living history group – is dedicated to preserving the memory of Maine Civil War volunteer soldiers. The original Company B was mustered into the 20th Regiment, Maine Volunteer Infantry in August 1862, in time to march to Antietam with the Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac.
The re-enactors of Company B provided demonstrations, drills, and living history demonstration to help cap off a month-long series on Maine's contributions to the Civil War at Camden Public Library.
“We are not first-person actors, but we do portray an accurate picture of what life was like in a Union camp during the Civil War," said Lt. Paul Dudley. “We are entertainers, each of us are willing to answer any questions about the 20th Maine, or the Civil War in general, as if we were really in 1864.”
Dudley said sometimes visitors are taken by surprise by how strictly they stay true to character – use terms and mannerisms of soldiers from 1864.
“We do thing by the book,” he said. “This particular book was written 150 years ago, that's all.”
Dudley added, “At some of these events it's not very busy, but this weekend has been great and very busy with lots of interest in what we are doing,”
The present-day re-enactment group is made up of men and women from eastern, central, and southern Maine as well as Aroostook County and Canada. Some even uprooted and moved to Maine to continue their love of re-enactment.
“I'm originally from Pennsylvania,” said Brandon Howe. “My uncle was part of the 30th Maryland down there and he asked if I wanted to try being a re-enactor. I immediately fell in love with it and later I moved to Maine and became a part of Company B.”
Howe said it was the importance of the 20th Maine and the role it played in the outcome of the war that drove him to join the outfit after moving north and said he always looks forward to opportunities to put on the uniform.
Howes' uncle, Carman Kirkpatrick, followed his nephew north to also become part of Company B.
“I have done the re-enactments in Pennsylvania for about 15 years and how I got involved is quite a funny story,” Kirkpatrick said. “I had a guy I worked with and I mentioned to him that I wanted to take my horse and charge the Union lines during one of the re-enactments, he then told me he was one of the them and I could just join up – so I did.”
Kirkpatrick said his interest in the Civil War started at a young age because he grew up in a town called Shippensburg, which was on the route Confederate General Robert E. Lee took as he made his second advance north.
“There are strong roots going back generations that had family that were connected to the major battles on both sides of the war, so I grew up in a place that everyone had the same interest,” he said.
He added, “ I have seen a lot of re-enactment groups and I think that Co. B of the 20th Maine is one of the best ones out there. That is one of the reasons I moved to Maine in the first place.”
The historical Company B, commanded by Walter G. Morrill, had been recruited in Piscataquis County, among the farmers of Dover, Milo and Sebec.
At Gettysburg, Company B was sent out as skirmishers by Colonel Joshua Chamberlain to protect the regiment's exposed left flank. Posted behind a stone wall, the Company was too far away to participate in the initial fight, but was instrumental in routing the fleeing Confederates, its sudden appearance adding to the Rebel confusion.
Company B was with the 20th in all its battles, from the wilderness to Petersburg to Appomattox.
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
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