War re-enactor enjoys reliving history
September 10, 2013 12:58PM
Will Radell | Photo provided
Updated: October 12, 2013 6:07AM
“In ‘61, war begun
In ‘62, bullets flew
In ‘63, slaves are free
In ‘64, war is oer
In ‘65, Lincoln died”
— Author unknown
Will Radell, 41, is an instructional technology specialist at Indiana University Northwest’s Center for Innovation and Scholarship in Teaching and Learning.
Radell, 41, also is a Civil War re-enactor who recently spent several days in Gettysburg pursuing his hobby. Singing is a very important part of Radell’s life as well. He is a member of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Chorus (Bass II). In 1992, he performed at Carnegie Hall as a member of Indiana University of Pennsylvania Chorale.
Radell is a lifelong bachelor who lives in Valparaiso.
“I have a bachelor’s degree in communications media and a master’s in adult education and communications technology,” he said. “Both my degrees are from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.”
Indiana, Pa. The home of late actor Jimmy Stewart.
“Jimmy was a good guy. The town of Indiana also is known as ‘The Christmas Tree Capital of the World.’”
What exactly do you do here at IUN?
“We have workshops for the faculty. What we do at the teaching center is help students by helping the faculty. We work with faculty only.”
Where were you born?
“In New Smyrna Beach, Fla. We moved around a lot when I was young. We moved to Illinois, then to Mississippi and then Alabama. But I spent most of my life in Pennsylvania.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers?
“I’m a huge fan. The Pirates, too. My grandfather really followed baseball and he told me Roberto Clemente was the greatest ballplayer he ever saw. He said Clemente could do it all. I wish I could’ve seen him play.”
Kid, the media throws the term “five-tool player” around quite liberally these days. Roberto Clemente was a “five-tool player” if ever there was one. He was a great humanitarian, too.
Let’s switch gears. How long have you been a Civil War re-enactor?
“Since 2003. I’ve been to three national events. I’ve also been in quite a few smaller events like the Heston Steam Museum north of LaPorte.”
The Civil War blows my mind. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago.
“Exactly. If you look at the history of the world, the Civil War just happened yesterday. That’s why we have to remember the lessons that we learned.”
My friend, the late historian Richard Schmal of Lowell, told me he remembered the Grand Army of the Republic marching in parades.
“The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War are the legal heirs of the Grand Army of the Republic and we’re chartered by the 83rd Congress. The last surviving member of the GAR, Albert Woolsen, transferred all the rights and privileges to the SUVCW. We carry on the traditions in their memory and their legacies.”
Do you have ancestors who fought in the Civil War?
“My maternal great-great grandfather, Joseph Reisch, was with the 2nd United States Reserve Corps and then he went to the 41st Missouri, Company G. I also have other relatives who fought in the Civil War. John, James and William Patton were with the 25th Iowa.”
Most people equate the term scalawag with a rascally, grizzled buccaneer. But during the Civil War, in the South, a scalawag was a Southerner who opposed secession or fought for the Union.
“There were Pennsylvanians who fought for the South. The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War did a grave dedication along with the Sons of Confederate Veterans for a soldier who was from Altoona, Pa. But there’s a story within the story.”
I love stories within the stories.
“Before the war, this soon-to-be soldier used to teach a boy how to properly ride a horse every year. Once the Civil War broke out, the man joined the Virginia Cavalry. His family was pretty much ashamed that he was fighting for the Confederacy.”
“Years after the war, the soldier writes to the boy who has obviously become an adult by then. In his letter, he says: ‘You might not remember me, but I’m the man who gave you riding lessons. I’m hoping you can get my daughter a job at the post office.’
“The younger man writes back saying he has fond memories of being taught the proper way to ride a horse and, yes, your daughter has the job at the post office.”
“The letter was signed: Pres. Woodrow Wilson.”
Wow! I wonder how much that one would go for on “Pawn Stars”? Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln”?
“He was absolutely brilliant. You couldn’t ask for a better performance. It was the only time I watched the Oscars. I wanted to make sure he won.”
Tell me about your recent re-enactments at Gettysburg.
“Gettysburg was a phenomenal time. It was a four-day event and we had two battles per day. The first day we were portraying the Iron Brigade which was comprised of the 19th Indiana, 24th Michigan and Wisconsin 2nd, 6th and 7th. The 24th Michigan got totally destroyed that fateful day.
“I belong to the 20th Indiana Company B re-enactment group. The first night in Gettysburg we went to the actual battlefield where the 20th Indiana monument is. We did a little ceremony commemorating the place that Col. John Wheeler — who was from Crown Point — was shot and killed.”
Have you ever seen the murals painted by retired art teacher Marion Kellum at Col. John Wheeler Middle School?
“I’ve seen it on the Internet, but I haven’t seen it in person.”
Like Mr. Kellum himself, it’s quite a piece of work.
“The wheatfield where the 20th Indiana was fighting was brutal. It was just chaotic. The guys in the 20th knew the Confederates were coming; they tried to build a small breastworks, but the Rebels came too fast, so they just started fighting. The men from the 20th got slammed by the 1st Texas and the 3rd Arkansas — two regiments. The 20th Indiana lost more than 50 percent of its men in the first 30 minutes of the battle.”
Interesting guy, Will Radell. Maybe next time, we can discuss his love of singing.