Living History to show Civil War Engineering

History comes alive on Oak Island when area reenactors set up their tents at Celebrate Commemorate on Friday-Sunday, May 25th-28th.

“We are excited that this year, the encampment will focus on the engineering that developed during the Civil War,” said Living History chair Marty Hillman. “ The encampment will attract reenactors from around the region and across the country, “

The school, located at the Oak Island encampment, will commence on Saturday at 1pm following the Memorial Day Parade.

The Civil War encampment will feature a two day long “School of Instruction for Engineers/Pioneers” Engineers were one of four branches of the Army including the infantry, artillery and cavalry during the American Civil War, Hillman explained. The public will be able to see Civil War reenactor participants build some of the various defensive pieces during this school of instruction. Pioneers were infantry troops that were skilled tradesman that acted as “infantry engineers”, one per every 100 man company if they were available.

The school is hosted by two Western New York engineer reenacting units. Capt. Ray Ball of Co. A of the U.S. Regular Engineers has been reenacting since 2010 and is a veteran of the Army Corps of Engineers. Capt Alex Johnson of Co. F of the 1st N.Y. Volunteer Engineers, has reenacted since 1992 and is a descendant of an immigrant sergeant of the original New York regiment. If you’re so intrigued to, join in on the fun and enlist in either Co. A of the U.S. Regular Engineers or Co. F of the 1st N.Y. Volunteer Engineers.

The role of the engineer was extremely vital for the Army to move across the land and fight on the battlefield. The engineers were instrumental in clearing paths through woods, laying down “corduroy roads” on muddy surfaces, building wooden trestle bridges and transporting / deploying pontoon bridges over rivers.

Defensive works needed the guidance of the engineers to construct gabions (three foot tall, round wicker containers filled with dirt to place around artillery batteries), and direct the building of field fortifications especially towards the middle through the end of the war when trench warfare was more prevalent.

Chevaux-de-frise (or Friesian horses) were anti-cavalry defensive pieces built by engineers that were often logs with projecting sharpened spikes alternating every foot out of the timber. When placed in front of defensive works they acted as a barrier or obstacle for both cavalry and infantry offensives.

Abatis were large branches that were placed in front of works as well to serve as a obstacle to slow down an advance of troops. Also in front of such works were shallow rifle pits (much like foxholes) that the defenders would use to repel the offensive forces. Signal towers were often constructed behind the lines for both observation of the enemy and use by the signal corps to transmit semaphore messages with flags. Lifting gins, with their pulleys, were used to lift heavy objects such as cannon barrels.

During the course of the “School of the Engineer / Pioneer”, the public will be able to witness participants rotating through 45 minute learning sessions on how to build gabions, chevaux-de-frise, lifting gins, dig rifle pits and a construct a signal tower. The Engineers’ Tool Depot will feature hand tools, entrenching / felling implements and cartography (map making) equipment.

Witness history yourself, see their camps, examine their personal belongings, food and equipment.
For more information about Celebrate Commemorate events, check us out on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CelebrateCommemorate/ or go to www.waterloony.com/Celebrate

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