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Encampment at Swetland brings Civil War to life

Last updated: October 12. 2013 10:25PM - 2147 Views
SUSAN DENNEY Times Leader Correspondent



Michael Donahue, a Civil War reenactor cleans, his musket on Saturday at the encampment at the Swetland Homestead in Wyoming. Members of the 143rd Pennsylvania Volunteers provided an education for the curious.
Michael Donahue, a Civil War reenactor cleans, his musket on Saturday at the encampment at the Swetland Homestead in Wyoming. Members of the 143rd Pennsylvania Volunteers provided an education for the curious.
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WYOMING — Jayden Reedy, decked out in Union uniform, crouches beneath the low branches of a tree. He holds his musket steady.


He watches a group of Union soldiers drilling in an open field. Perhaps he is there as a sentry to protect the troops. He spots the enemy. He fires!


Pauline Reedy of Duryea brought grandson Jayden, 7, to the encampment of the 143rd Pennsylvania Volunteers at Swetland Homestead on Saturday. The 143rd is a group of Civil War reenactors. All but two companies of the Civil War regiment were recruited from Luzerne County.


Reedy said Jayden became interested in the Civil War after visiting a museum in New Market, Va. He bought his uniform and child-sized toy musket there. She knew he would enjoy seeing the encampment.


Jayden said he is interested in the war because “it’s so old and it teaches valuable lessons.” When asked what lessons he meant, he said, “Never get too mad at other states. You don’t want to start another war.”


Would he like to have been a participant in the Civil War? Jayden said, “No! I just like to pretend to be a soldier.”


Mark Kahn, of West Wyoming, is chaplain and assistant surgeon of the 143rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, a new reenactor group that was formed this past February. The group is based locally at Swetland Homestead. Members come from Scranton, Tunkhannock, Wilkes-Barre and Kingston.


From three original members in February the group has grown to 12 men and four women ranging in age from 14 to 60-plus.


“I was a history teacher for many years,” Kahn said. “I decided it was better to do history than to read about it.”


He said that the group attempts to do what soldiers actually did so they can understand what it was like in the Civil War. “So much is not taught in schools. This is a way to actually teach history,” Kahn said.


Kahn said few people know that there was a Luzerne County regiment or that Gettysburg was fought because Robert E. Lee was on his way to Luzerne County. According to Kahn, Lee was after the anthracite coal the region could provide.


The group spends much of its time during encampments drilling and learning maneuvers. According to Kahn, soldiers had two-hour drills up to five times a day when not in battle.


The 143rd is actively seeking new members. Kahn says that a new soldier recruit has a year to outfit himself. The recruit can expect to spend from $150 to $200 to get into uniform.


“After that, the more accurate you want to be, the more you can spend,” Kahn added. “It’s nice to have correct stuff.” He listed sidearms, muskets and shoes as items that add authenticity. Even Kahn’s bifocals had the look of Civil War era glasses.


He said those interested in joining the regiment should come to an encampment and see what it’s like.


The soldiers camped out at the homestead on Friday night and will continue their encampment through Sunday. There is no fee for visiting the encampment but those wishing to tour the house at Swetland Homestead will pay a fee.


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