Presentation focuses on local soldiers in the Civil War

By Kitty LeShay - ReminderNews
Willington - posted Thu., May. 2, 2013
Frank Niederwerfer from the 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Co.G. reenactment displays a rifle used in combat at the Civil War presentation sponsored by the Willington Historical Society. Photo by Kitty LeShay.
Frank Niederwerfer from the 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Co.G. reenactment displays a rifle used in combat at the Civil War presentation sponsored by the Willington Historical Society. Photo by Kitty LeShay.

Frank Niederwerfer, in his Union soldier uniform, gave an informative presentation about local people in the Civil War to a capacity audience at the Willington Public Library on April 25. He touched on battle strategies, weapons, the soldier’s equipment, clothing, food and daily life in the military. After the presentation, which was interspersed with humor and colorful stories of local recruits, the audience had an opportunity to view the artifacts on display. The evening was sponsored by the Willington Historical Society.

Niederwerfer is a Civil War reenactor in the 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Co.G. “I became interested in the Civil War at the centennial when I was 8 years old. I got hooked at that time. We reenact because we want to honor the vets from all wars, the sacrifice they made,” he said.  With 2 people of the population, or 620,000 people, dead, it was the costliest war in lives, he said. If 2 percent of the population of the United Stales were casualties now, it would mean more than 6 million people dead.

An authentic reenactment movie of the Battle of Antietam hooked the audience in at the beginning, and the rest of the evening they followed the 14th to Gettysburg. The 14th was one regiment from Connecticut. Willington residents also served in the 10th, 11th and 16th.  The 16th was known as the bad luck company, because they didn’t receive their rifles in a timely manner and lacked training. The statistics for those who served from Willington include five deaths from wounds, 18 deserted, seven died of disease, 11 were disabled, 24 mustered out, and 14 discharged. Disease took a greater toll than battle deaths in the Civil War. “A stream would be polluted from those camping upstream. Sanitary conditions were terrible,” Niederwerfer explained. Doctors did not wash their hands as they moved from surgery to surgery. It was a recipe for disease and infections.

A soldier carried everything he needed: bedding, weapons, rubber blanket, Bible, sewing kit, cards, dice and in their haversack the famous unappetizing hardtack, coffee, sugar, salt and beans. “Their canteens served as a plate and fry pan,” Niederwerfer said as he demonstrated its use.  Soldiers also foraged for food. Even though the turning point for the Confederacy was Gettysburg, they left Pennsylvania with 10,000 cattle, Niederwerfer said. The rifle which helped turn that battle into a victory for the Union was the Sharps Rifle, which could fire eight to 10 shots a minute, an improvement over the Springfield’s two shots a minute.

Joe Froehlich, the town historian and program director for the Willington Historical Society, was very pleased with the program. “We appreciate the time Frank put into preparing for this program. His knowledge of the Civil War and those who fought locally was impressive. He did a great job with presenting this information as well as explaining the life of soldiers during this difficult time in America,” he said.

Froehlich welcomes ideas from residents about presentations they would like the WHS to host.


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