NEW RUMLEY – Thanks to the Custer Memorial Association, New Rumley’s native son General George Armstrong Custer lived again in memory at the annual Custer Celebration Day held June 1. Those attending the celebration were able to step back in time to the days of the Civil War, experience the war’s weapons and its music, and meet General Custer himself through the portrayal of living historian Rick Williams.
Following a flag raising by Jewett VFW Post 3072, an invocation by Leroy VanHorne, and a presentation of wreaths by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, the excitement began in earnest with a demonstration of cannon fire.
Mandal Hass and John Burnett, dressed in the uniforms of the 19th Ohio Light Artillery, electrified the crowd by twice firing a Civil War cannon replica. Although no shell was loaded, the sound and concussion of the big gun awed the crowd and scattered horses that had been grazing calmly in distant fields, making it easy to imagine the noise and chaos of a battlefield.
Next Ron Kimble of Dover, Ohio, fired off several of his hand-crafted Civil War artillery pieces. Kimble’s museum-quality working models were displayed throughout the day in the Custer Museum and drew a great deal of interest from attendees.
Lunch was provided by the Ladies of the Methodist Church, and in the church sanctuary Sergeant Steve Ball of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War delighted listeners by singing and playing the songs of the Civil War, including “Garry Owen,” Custer’s battle anthem.
“Anyone who hoped to play in Custer’s band had to play that song personally for Custer,” explained Ball. “Before he adopted it as his battle anthem, it was just an Irish drinking song.”
For those who like their history well-researched, well-presented, and peppered with humor, Rick Williams’ recounting of Custer’s life in the year 1863 was a highlight of the celebration. Williams has been involved in Civil War re-enacting since 1999, and began portraying Custer in 2003.
“Re-enactors kept telling me how much I looked like him,” said Williams. “I have concentrated on portraying Custer in his Civil War days because many people only remember how he died at the Little Bighorn.”
Williams’ presentation concentrated on 1863, which he described as “The Year of Decision and the Making of a General.” In that third year of the Civil War, Custer demonstrated his courage by leading his men at the front of the charge, was promoted to Brigadier General, and became engaged to the woman he loved.
The best celebrations of the past are always connected to the future, and the future of Civil War re-enactment was apparent at the Custer celebration. Thirteen-year-old William Morlan from Copley, Ohio, was a huge hit with the crowd as he represented the 41st Ohio Volunteer Infantry as a drummer boy. Sparked by his father’s interest, William taught himself to play the drum and fife, and his talent was much appreciated by his New Rumley audience. He will be returning to the area for a Labor Day ceremony with the Jewett VFW.
“I really enjoyed meeting General Custer,” said William, “and I loved the cannon firing. This was a very, very nice event and well-planned. I hope to see everyone again next year.”
The Custer Memorial Association hopes the same, and that many more people of all ages attend next year and take advantage of the opportunity to see history come alive.
Pictured above (L to R) Rick Williams portraying General George Armstrong Custer, drummer boy William Morlan, and John Burnett with the replica Civil War cannon. Also pictured left is Mandal Hoss firing a Civil War cannon as the crowd exclaims and horses in the fields around New Rumley scatter.
NH photos/BEVERLY ENOLD
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