By HOWARD BALABAN
Medina Journal-Register — History came alive in Medina over the weekend.
Starting Friday afternoon, Genesee Community College-Medina Campus Center hosted a Civil War Encampment, part of the institution’s Civil War Initiative in honor of the War’s 150th anniversary.
Saturday provided the community with the fullest day of events, starting with a parade in the downtown area of the village in the morning. At the intersection of Main and Center Streets, the parade stopped briefly for Captain Erwin Ambrose Bowen to be presented with a sword by the “Ladies of Medina.” (See related story.)
Later in the day, Bowen, portrayed by English native Simon Taylor, led the men of Medina Company D of the 28th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment into battle against a Confederate battalion on the field adjacent to the GCC-Medina campus.
In a stunning twist of events, the Confederacy won the day, shocking the gathered crowd. However, the reenactment held Sunday saw the Union soldiers’ side with more men, and therefore they managed to turn the tables and claim victory.
Among the many exhibits on hand were artifacts from local descendants of Civil War soldiers and the encampment itself, which featured a field “hospital” where the military doctor explained the medicine and medical tools of the era.
Saturday night also featured a Victorian Cotillion, when a number of people showed up to enjoy the night in period-specific attire.
The encampment’s event’s honorary chairman, Adam Tabelski, said the success of the weekend showed how Medina can adapt to unique happenings.
“It goes to show Medina is fertile ground for hosting a variety of historically themed events,” he said. “History, and Civil War history in particular, seems to strike a chord with people who want to experience the past in new ways.”
With the encampment on hand to bring the past to life, Tabelski said he was not sure what kind of reception to expect. He joked that his unsure expectations were highly exceeded.
“Families and their kids have come out and it looks like everyone is having a good time,” he observed, adding that the weather - which was ideal by any definition - probably played a factor.
The weather certainly made life easier for the reenactors, most of whom slept in tents on campus. On, a Union solider portrayed by Robert Yott of Bath, said he did about a dozen Civil War events annually, including a few in Gettysburg, Pa.
Yott said Hamlin Beach used to hold a reenactment, and he said the chance to do another event in Western New York was a good opportunity.
Specifically, he said the 28th NY Infantry “had a nice backstory” to it that made the event more unique than many others he had attended.
Some observers found the encampment to be quite the spectacle.
Marta O’Keefe of Lyndonville said she had never attended anything like the encampment, and she came away from it with a sense of wonder, especially with the trauma techniques of the 1860s.
“There was some fascinating information at the hospital about what they were able to do at the time with medicine, and with some of the tools they used,” O’Keefe said. She added that the undertaker, who had a tent near the hospital, also had a plethora of knowledge to share, but with a bit more humor.
Another Lyndonville resident, Steve Earle, said the even was “well worthwhile to come and see” because of the obvious care that went into organizing it.
“You can tell the guys (in the battle) take what they do really seriously and they have a genuine love for what they do,” he said. He noted how the battle left him amazed at how one canon could make so much noise.
GCC History Professor Derek Maxfield, said his amazement lied with how well the event came together. He pointed to the cooperation from the local community as a primary reason for the encampment’s success.
“We floated the idea of the encampment to the local leaders, and I’ve never seen a community rally around something quite the way the folks in Medina have,” Maxfield exclaimed. “They were so enthusiastic and went out of their way to offer support and help and come up with ideas.”
Indeed, organizations like the Orleans Renaissance Group, the Sandstone Society and the Medina Historical Society, to name a few, helped make the planning of the event “easier to plan and bring together,” Maxfield said.
“They helped make this not just a GCC event, but a community event,” he added.