Local reenactors visit Gettsyburg, honor local soldiers

By Frank Niederwerfer
South Windsor - posted Wed., Jul. 24, 2013
(L-r) Matt Mordasky, Matt Vallier and Frank Niederwerfer at Frank Stoughton’s grave. His funeral was held with Masonic services at the Wapping Congregational Church in South Windsor, and he is buried in the Wapping Cemetery. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought 150 years ago this July, helping decide the fate of the country during the Civil War. South Windsor native Frank Stoughton was there as a 2nd Lieutenant in Company H of the 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. Stoughton was born in South Windsor in 1834. At the outbreak of hostilities, Stoughton was working as an overseer in a Vernon mill. He was one of two South Windsor men who enlisted in the 14th CVI - the other being my relative, Oliver Dart, who would be seriously wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862.

Stoughton would fight bravely at Gettysburg, suffering from several wounds. He would recover from these wounds to serve through the winter of 1864, reaching the rank of captain. Stoughton was honorably discharged after illness had reduced him to nearly skin and bones. He returned to the South Windsor area and would only survive a year, passing away on New Year’s Day 1866, after his body wasted away. His funeral was held with Masonic services at the Wapping Congregational Church in South Windsor, and he is buried in the Wapping Cemetery. A local obituary summed up his character by stating, “Possessing bravery, fortitude and endurance to an eminent degree, he forgot self entirely in his devotion to the Union.”

One-hundred-fifty years after the battle, at the Sesquecentennial Commemoration and Reenactments, three South Windsor natives - Matt Mordasky, Matt Vallier and I, Frank Niederwerfer - returned to Gettysburg to honor Stoughton and the other soldiers who fought in the battle. Each of us for our own reasons took time out of our lives to make the journey to the small town of Gettysburg to participate in this historic event. The commemoration lasted over a 12-day period with two national reenactments and National Park Service events.

Mordasky and I belong to the 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Company G reenactment unit. Vallier belongs to the 11th Connecticut Volunteer infantry Company A reenactment unit. Each of us come from different backgrounds and generations, but are tied together by our love of history and desire to honor these men such as Stoughton who gave their last full measure during the war.

I have been reenacting since 1999 and my interest in the Civil War dates back to the Centennial in 1961, when I was 8 years old. I have numerous relatives that fought in the Civil War, including Oliver Dart, who served in Company D of the 14th CVI. Mordasky’s interest in the Civil War stems from a life-long interest in military history.

Vallier is in his third year of reenacting with the 14th CVI Co. G and just recently has discovered a number of relatives from the Midwest that fought in the Civil War. Vallier is a junior at South Windsor High School who grew up listening to stories of World War II from his grandfather, who was at Pearl Harbor. After watching the movie, “Gettysburg,” he developed an interest in the Civil War and reenacting. Vallier reenacts both Civil War and World War II and is in his fourth year with the 11th Connecticut. He shares this experience with his father, Bob Vallier, also a member of the 11th CVI reenactment unit.

For each of us, reenacting helps bring history alive and helps us understand how these soldiers lived under such hard conditions 150 years ago. It allows us to touch history in a small way and gain a better understanding of why they sacrificed so much.

To go to the 150th commemoration and reenactment was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The scale of the event was breathtaking, and it was such an honor to walk in the footsteps of men like Frank Stoughton and so many others, both North and South, who stood strong for their beliefs. All three of us feel it is so important to keep the memories and deeds of these men alive, so future generations will know them and appreciate what they did for us.

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