For Eric Reynolds, the Civil War isn’t simply an interest. It’s in his blood.
|Eric Reynolds, chief deputy with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, shows some of his Civil War memorabilia and re-enactor props. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
The discovery of a Civil War ancestor 13 years ago prompted Reynolds into research, historical re-enacting, and sharing his learning with the community.
“I want to bring to light the daily life of a soldier from Ohio,” said Reynolds, rural Wayne, who is chief deputy with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office. He’s been with the sheriff’s office since 1989.
“Ohio was the total, number-wise, the third-largest state to dedicate troops into the war effort behind New York and Pennsylvania.”
“So Ohio was very instrumental. Oftentimes we think we were so removed from it, but we weren’t.”
Reynold’s interest in the Civil War began in 2001, when he was paging through a photo album belonging to his great-grandmother. There, he found the photograph of a Civil War soldier “and I’ve always been intrigued with history. But actually seeing a potential relative of mine that was part of that history brought the history to light, and I began doing research.”
With the help of others, Reynolds found out the man’s name — James H. Vosburg, of rural West Millgrove — and he wrote to the National Archives for his military record.
Vosburg served in the 49th Ohio beginning in August of 1861, and fought in the western theater of war. He was wounded at Pickett’s Mill, Ga., in May of 1864. Vosburg survived his wound and was mustered out of the army in September of that year.
Reynolds later joined a friend and his brother in a trip to the Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont to watch a Civil War re-enactment.
While there he met members of the 14th Ohio/3rd Arkansas re-enactor group — a “galvanized” unit, meaning they can portray soldiers from either side of the conflict, depending on what is needed.
“It’s hard to re-enact without Confederates,” said Reynolds.
“We thought it was neat to be part of history, making history come to life, especially kids, to see their eyes light when they got to see a musket and see what camp life was really like.”
As a result, Reynolds joined up with the 14th Ohio, and participated in a number of re-enactments, including the 140th anniversary of the pivotal battle of Antietam, Veterans’ Day Parades, and other events.
He also discovered that re-enacting, simply put, isn’t easy.
“Number one, it’s exhausting,” he said. “You actually have to be in good, fit physical shape. There’s a lot of running, standing, marching. Weather conditions, it could be in the 90s, and then get down to the 40s, 50s at night. So it could be cold, could be hot. And it really makes you value what the men went through in the Civil War, the hardships.”
“The most important piece of equipment they had were their shoes, their Brogans.”
“It’s important in re-enactments to, at least during the open public time, to live as realistic as possible, otherwise you’re doing disservice to those who really sacrificed.”
Eventually, due to the time demands of his job, Reynolds shifted out of re-enacting.
However, with the 150th anniversary of the conflict starting three years ago, “I began getting phone calls” to make presentations to various groups.
“I do school talks,” he said. “I have done many, many of the senior centers here in Wood County. It was neat, I did the Rossford Senior Center a couple months ago,” and there was a 98-year-old lady in the audience.
“And to think that she knew Civil War survivors, this little old lady picked the gun up,” he said, referring to his reproduction musket, and “she began telling stories of her youth, hunting with her father and what Wood County used to be like.”
Reynolds says he’s glad that the 150th anniversary “rekindles the memory of those who fought, and may raise some interest in Civil War re-enacting and research.”