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Men in Lisbon answer call to arms during mock recruitment drive

September 23, 2012
By KATIE SCHWENDEMAN - Staff Writer ( , Morning Journal News

LISBON - Some went heartily, others needed persuasion, and yet others refused to go, but all made a decision.

On Saturday morning, a recruitment drive for the 66th Ohio Regiment began in the square, and men young and old made the life-changing decision to join the Union infantry.

Formed after the attack and capture of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861, the regiment of at least 100 men was needed to avenge Sumter and put down the rebellion.

Pleading for the cause was Lisbon resident Dr. George McCook, of the Fighting McCooks.

"We are here to set men, women and children free. We are here to respect all men and women," he said.

The speech was met with cheers from the crowd, shouting "God Bless the Union!"

The mock drive was set up by the 66th Ohio Regiment re-enactors and Dr. McCook was played by Ken Schreffler. The purpose of the living history event was to show what a recruitment drive was like in 1862 in Lisbon and what life was like for those who enlisted.

The re-enactors from all over arrived in Lisbon on Friday night, setting up camp not far from the historical train station downtown.

As they assembled in the square Saturday morning the tone was somber, yet passionate-the speakers full of zeal-the women in full-bodied dresses, shawls and bonnets encouraging men to join.

"C'mon, you know the ladies will like you better in uniform!" one woman shouted while another, Heather Nichols, debated with a man about the far-reaching effects succession would have on the nation as a whole.

"Anarchy and chaos will ensue if all states and municipalities can pull away," she said.

On the same day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation that would later become the Emancipation Proclamation that would free all the slaves in any of the Confederate states. The proclamation came only four days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee's retreat into Virginia after the Battle of Antietam.

As men lined up to join the regiment in Lisbon they were told they may never see their wives or families again, but they stepped forward anyway.

One young man, played by Troy Valasek, of Canton, needed some persuasion.

Placing a musket in his hand, a sergeant told him, "This fits well."

Shaking his head, Valasek said, "I don't want to be full of lead." Other regiment members then stepped in to encourage him, and shortly after he agreed to enlist.

Other men weren't as hesitant.

"If you will, I will," one said to another. "

Why not? Let's do it."

Josh Wales, playing the part of a Union lieutenant, urged, "Will you allow law and order to (give way) to chaos?"

"No!" came the resounding reply.

The drive even accepted those who weren't re-enactors, like Lenny and Kristina Catlett, of Lisbon. Kristina Catlett is currently a teacher in Sebring and said the living history event taught her things about the Civil War she didn't already know, such as how involved the women were and that a $1,000 reward was offered for the capture of Gen. John Hunt Morgan.

Morgan is known for the more than 1,000-mile Confederate raid he orchestrated in 1863 into Ohio and Indiana.

Lenny Catlett said the $200 signing bonus offered in those days was enough to entice some undecided men to join. Like other spectators, he learned to shoot a Civil War era musket at the camp site near the train station following the mock drive.

Salem residents Thane Richey and Joey Potts also learned to shoot a musket and participated in a basic bayonet drill. The boys are interested in muzzle loaders and Richey said he has visited Gettysburg, Pa.

"It's very interesting. It's something you can actually get into and want to do," Potts said of the re-enactment group.

Lisbon resident and re-enactor Jason Leggett said the recruitment drive is the first the group has re-enacted and that the bayonet drill is unique to them, as other groups don't offer this particular exercise. The group typically re-enacts the regiment's battles.

Leggett also said the event has been a year in the planning stages and that it came about after a suggestion by the local Chamber of Commerce.

Others to speak during the event were published authors Frank and Mary Piatek, longtime re-enactors from New Castle, Pa. Frank Piatek played the part of a local politician supporting the Union.

Spectators were also invited to browse Civil War artifacts displayed in the train station near Maple Street.



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