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Civil War history on display at welcome center

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Updated: May 28, 2013 7:07PM



‘When the Civil War started many men volunteered thinking it was a lark and they’d be home in about six weeks or so,” according to Steve Batey, a Civil War re-enactor from Hammond.

Batey portrays John Myer, who he said was one of the original enlistees in the 20th Indiana Infantry. He said Myer “was not a coward, not a slacker” given that records show he served for four years before being wounded, mustered out in 1864 and then returning to the Crown Point area.

Re-enactors like Batey will be at the Indiana Welcome Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday and again from 4 to 7:30 p.m. May 1 in conjunction with the free exhibit “Region United, Nation Divided: Civil War in the South Shore” on display through June 30. The Indiana Welcome Center is located just south of Interstate 94 at Kennedy Avenue.

The re-enactors will answer questions and offer living-history demonstrations of aspects of the Civil War. Tents like those used by soldiers in the war provide the backdrop to tables lined with items typical of what a soldier would carry.

Exhibit panels line the room and contain information about the 20th Indiana and other Indiana regiments that included soldiers from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. It tells of their roles in Gettysburg, Sherman’s March and other significant battles and efforts of the war, and of the contributions they and some local individuals made.

Other displays in Civil War in the South Shore tell about Lincoln’s funeral train, which passed through northwest Indiana on May 1, 1865, or the work of chaplains on the front, or about the post-war establishment of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization of Civil War veterans, and this organization’s role in construction of Valparaiso’s Memorial Opera House.

The exhibit also tells personal stories, like that of 14-year-old Winfield Brewer of Valparaiso, who enlisted and served as a drummer boy, marching along with older family members. In the section entitled “Medicine and the Civil War,” visitors can see a set of crude field surgical tools and get some insight into the high rates, and toll, of infection and disease.

If this exhibit makes you want to learn more about the Civil War, there are several other opportunities for a variety of interesting and informative experiences.

This is the final weekend this season for the engaging Follow the North Star program at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park near Indianapolis. Participants in this stirring award-winning program assume the role of runaway slaves navigating into unknown safety, or danger. On the weekend of May 18 and 19, Conner Prairie will host its annual Civil War Days, complete with re-enactor encampments and battles.

Two events will take place in LaPorte County over the weekend of June 22 and 23. The Hesston Steam Museum will host its annual Civil War Railroad Days, which includes Union troops defending a train against raids by the Confederates on steam engine rides throughout the day. Also that weekend, the LaPorte County Historical Society Museum will offer its Civil War event which includes skirmishes and an evening ball.

And on Aug. 17 the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson will hold a Civil War encampment.



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