Peterboro to celebrate Civil War sesquicentennial

Volunteers will soon be setting fences, erecting tent covers and signage for seven acres of land and 11 structures, hauling provisions for the more than 100 Civil War re-enactors, sprucing up their period costumes and turning the clocks back 150 years in final preparations for the 21st Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend.

The weekend event begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 8, and ends at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 9, with Taps, written by Oliver Wilcox Norton, best friend of Alexander Dickey of Siloam, Town of Smithfield.

The Civil War military and civilian encampment includes daily life and housekeeping, drilling, medical tents, generals plotting strategies, President Lincoln walking about pressing copper coins in the palms of tots, Civil War Round Tables, historical organizations, vendors and sutlers and, of course, the skirmish at 2 p.m. each day.

The hamlet will welcome folks from neighboring towns and several states who will become immersed in 1863 as the event recognizes the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War with featured themes of the Emancipation Proclamation, the recruitment and service of the United States Colored Troops and the Battle of Gettysburg and President Lincoln’s famous speech five months later.

The community of the Town of Smithfield and the dedicated re-enactors create a 19th century village in which families can spend the weekend doing a variety of activities. The best introduction to the hamlet is a tour at mid-day both days of the weekend that begins at the Iron Gate with guides Donna Dorrance Burdick (the Town of Smithfield historian) and Beth Dorrance Spokowsky (the President of the Peterboro Area Museum.) Walking slowly and talking fast the two sisters provide an entertaining and educational crash course in Peterboro history.

To learn about Peterboro’s famous citizen Gerrit Smith, visitors can visit the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark across the street from the Civil War encampment. Exhibitions (including an introductory video) for The Barn, The Grounds, The Land Office, The Laundry, and The Lodge describe Smith and his family, Smith’s use of wealth to aid the oppressed, his abolition activities, his Underground Railroad activities at the site, African-Americans in Peterboro. The Lodge will also have binders and videos from 20 years of Civil War Weekend. These exhibits are open the hours of the annual event, as is the Peterboro Mercantile, the community heritage shop, which has a satellite station on the green.

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