As part of the celebration of the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War, re-enactors portrayed life of soldiers and civilians for visitors this weekend in Elmira. Our Bill Mich was one of hundreds to take a trip back to the early 1860's to gain a new perspective on history.
ELMIRA, N.Y. -- 150 years ago, part of history was written right in our own backyard.
"When you think of the Civil War, you think of Virginia and South Carolina, you don't think of Elmira, NY. But it had a big impact on this community and that state," said Bob Roe of the Chemung Valley Living History Center.
In the early part of the war Elmira was a training camp for soldiers before gaining its grim reputation. As part of the continuing celebration of the Civil War's 150 year anniversary, re-enactors recreated a Civil War camp so visitors could get a sense of what life was like. But it was also an educational experience as kid's learned the roles of a Civil War soldier and visitors of all ages got a first hand look at history.
"We have our medical impression over here so they got to see an actual amputation last night and they get to see on the battlefield a good fight where they are going to see some actual tactics out there," said Jason Rose, the Captain of the 21st Georgia.
What makes this weekend's re-enactment so special besides the head-to-toe uniforms and all the accoutrements is the historic land that it is taking place on.
"Any time we can come to an area in which either a battle took place or in this case the prison which many people have heard about. This is the world famous prison camp during the Civil War. Of course, they called in Hellmira. It is very very special for us," Rose said.
The land was first a training camp for soldiers before becoming the prison camp later in the war. Hellmira saw 25% of its prisoners die, nearly 3,000 Confederate soldiers lost their life on this site. Re-enactors did their very best to try to authenticate as much of the time period as they could and at least for some, their performance was very believable.
"The Confederates and the Union were actually on this ground right now. I mean, not right now, but years ago they were and it's really cool to be here and feel how they felt," said Billy Meyer of Painted Post.
150 years later, Elmira's role in the Civil War will not soon be forgotten.