Otterville’s Civil War connection
union and Confederate flags will be flying in otterville this weekend for the annual Civil War re-enactment at Woodlawn House and railway station.
“there are going to be skirmishes each day, at 2 p.m. saturday and 1 p.m. sunday,” said gail lewis, a south norwich Historical society volunteer.
both encampments will be open to the public from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. saturday and 10-3 sunday.
“on saturday evening, there is a Candlelight tour starting at 7 p.m. it’s a guided tour through the encampments and there’s skits and little vignettes at each stop. it makes for a really nice evening and it’s very educational.”
the tour - and the re-enactment weekend - is not a celebration of war, lewis noted. it’s meant to take visitors into first-person history showcasing what life was like during the american Civil War.
“it’s just a very charming night. the lights are all off and you get to see what life was like in the evenings with the campfires, lanterns and candlelight. and they change it every year - i never know what each of them are going to do. it’s just a very charming thing to experience.”
the south norwich Historical society runs a food booth on site - stop by to sample the home-style treats, from chili to pie.
Canadians in the grand army of the republic supplies the majority of the re-enactors.
“it’s going to be a nice weekend for the fellows wearing their wool outfits,” said lewis. “their uniforms are all wool and it gets a little hot. all the re-enactors are very strict that their attire is period. so the ladies have their full garments... and i don’t know how they wear those things.
“some of them go right into their person’s role for the weekend and it’s hard to get them to break that. some of them you can’t coax them into ‘real life’, they go into the person for the weekend. so it’s really fun.”
many of the re-enactors also camp overnight for the entire weekend, sleeping in ‘canvas condos.’
“it’s amazing that they do that,” lewis smiled. “one time it was the tail end of a hurricane. Just windy, driving rain, horizontal rain. i went up first thing in the morning to make them coffee and one of the fellows said his tent blew down. He was just in a little one-man, so i said, ‘well i hope you came in the building for the night?’ He said, ‘nope, i crawled out, stood it back up and crawled back in.’”
admission to the Civil War re-enactment is by donation, and quite often up to 100 people will attend saturday’s skirmish.
“it’s usually well attended.”
Civil war connection
otterville, and the museum site in particular, provides a very suitable location for the Civil War re-enactment.
Woodlawn House and railway station buildings are ‘period’ for the Civil War, lewis noted.
“the one cemetery on site has a veteran that served in the north, and a veteran that served in the south. and since then we have marked several graves in the area with grand army of the republic stars that are veterans of the Civil War.
“We have a history of black settlers here, who were free blacks and some that came in the underground railway years. so it fits otterville history very nicely.
“a lot of people don’t understand that there were over 40,000 Canadians that fought on one side or the other in the american Civil War. and that’s amazing when you consider the population of what was upper Canada at the time.
“and of course it really affected the economics of the area as well. there’s a nearby farm that had quite an elaborate house built on it from the profits of selling horses to the union army. the impact was felt all over Canada, even in Quebec, and of course the maritimes.”