SIDNEY — Retired local educator and long-time Civil War re-enactor Doug Benson will discuss the life of the common Union Civil War soldier during Sidney, Ohio’s Civil War Living History Weekend. The event is scheduled for Tawawa Park Sept. 17-18.
Benson will talk about the life of the ordinary soldier, from recruitment through training and the routine of camp life.
“Only a tiny fraction of any soldier’s time was spent in front line combat. Instead, the vast majority of his existence revolved around the monotonous routines of camp life, which presented its own set of struggles and hardships,” Benson said.
“Once soldiers entered the army, military life turned out to be far different than what the majority of Civil War soldiers expected. Patriotic zeal blinded most of these volunteers to the realities and hardships they were signing up to experience,” Benson said. “Time had erased the country’s memory of the horrors of the American Revolution, and only a few participated in the war with Mexico.
“Most of the public believed that the Mexican War resulted in a glorious victory. In addition, the recruits believed that the war would be over quickly, and that they needed to quickly enlist or miss their opportunity for glory,” Benson said.
“I always encourage those who attend reenactments to visit the camps,” Benson said. “Most re-enactors spend the weekend living exactly as they would have 150 years ago. It is a tremendous opportunity to step back in history.”
Benson spent his educational career as a middle school library and language arts teacher in Sidney City Schools. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from The Ohio State University and a Master’s Degree from Wright State.
Following his 31 year career, he spent an additional 15 years as a substitute teacher for the district.
Benson began reenacting in 2001 with the 57th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He is currently a member of Company E of the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, part of the Army of the Ohio.
Benson winters in Florida, and while there, is a member of Company H of the 17th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. Benson considers his first-person portrayal of a prisoner of war at Andersonville the highlight of his re-enacting career.
Benson has volunteered with the Shelby County Historical Society for more than a decade, participating in various living history events. In his spare time, he is the volunteer coordinator for the Shelby County Master Gardeners with the OSU Extension Service.
Benson’s presentation on the life of the common Civil War Union soldier will be held Sunday morning, Sept. 18. at 10:30 p.m. His appearance and the other educational programs offered during the event will be held in a tent located at Wagner Glade in Tawawa Park.
Although no Civil War battles were fought anywhere near Sidney, a considerable number of local men served in the Union Army during the Civil War. In fact, the 1860 Census records that Shelby County had a population of 17,493. Of that number 8960 were male, and a staggering 14 percent of them served in the Army during the war. Of those, 25.58 percent (326) died in the service of their country.
The Civil War Living History Weekend is slated to be held in Tawawa Park Sept. 17-18. The two-day event will include skirmishing between Confederate and Union troops, major battles fought both days, a number of educational presentations, a band concert Saturday evening, and church services Sunday morning. The event is being co-sponsored by the Shelby County Historical Society and the city of Sidney.