To celebrate the arrival of spring and the culmination of their Civil War project, the Presque Isle Local & Legendary team created a Civil War museum complete with an encampment in the E. Perrin Edmunds Library at Northern Maine Community College (NMCC). For three days (May 29-31) community members had the opportunity to mingle and discuss Presque Isle’s involvement in the Civil War.
Thursday evening, members of the NMCC Foundation and NMCC students viewed the exhibit. Visitors had the opportunity to read a letter from a wife trying to get her husband’s pension, enlistment papers, and other documents. Artifacts on display included a hair wreath, mourning dress and bonnet, and a sword.
Friday afternoon, 4th grade students and their teachers attended a presentation by Kim Smith, secretary/treasurer of the Presque Isle Historical Society. Students tried on a peg leg and viewed Civil War veteran Wesley Martin’s original wooden artificial leg. Kim, attired in mourning clothes, demonstrated cooking over the campfire.
To give students a sense of the impact that the war had on the community of Presque Isle, Kim divided them into two equal groups representing the male and female population of Presque Isle in 1860. She then further split the “male” group in two, with one of those halves representing the men who went to war–i.e. one-quarter of Presque Isle’s population. Finally, she had the group who went off to fight further divide to represent those who did not come home from the war.
Students talked about what this meant in terms of work in an agrarian society; women had to farm and plow in order to keep food on the table. At the end of the hands on presentation, Kim was literally brought to tears when a student who is blind, told her, “That was fun!”
Civil War re-enactor Jeff Roberts and his wife Susan educated visitors on Saturday morning about life in camp. Sgt. Roberts, a Calvary soldier, told about his saddle, revolvers, and sword. They engaged the group in discussions about camp life and how the Calvary soldier took part in warfare.
Gail Roy, Assistant Dean of Learning Resources NMCC Library, reviewed the “One Story, One Community” program and how gratifying it was to have had a broad spectrum of the community turn out to discuss books. Teacher Bill Guerrette briefly spoke about the experience of his 8th grade students, and their Civil War studies. The final event of the day was the unveiling of Presque Isle’s Maine Memory Network Civil War exhibit.
Congratulations to Presque Isle Local & Legendary team members Kimberly Smith, Gail Roy, Bill Guerrette, Billie Brodsky, and Dianna Leighton for a job well done. A special thank you to Gail Roy for these photographs.
And further thanks to Janet Lyons, Consultant Project Coordinator, Maine Humanities Council, for submitting this report.