Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Day with Johnny Reb and Billy Yank at the Lehmann Mansion


I spent a very enjoyable, albeit chilly, day last Saturday out at the Lehmann Mansion in Lake Villa, Illinois, at the annual Civil War Encampment. I was manning the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) tent with the camp commander John Jeffers. Our camp (as SCV groups are called) is named after the infamous Union prison in Chicago where some 6000 Confederate prisoners (out of 12,000 interned) met their deaths. You always hear about the horrors of Andersonville, but....

The Lehmann Mansion was a great victory for preservationists. It was slated to be destroyed at one time. Today, it has mostly been returned to its former glory and is used for many weddings, parties, and business functions. It is too bad people don't think about possible new uses for old and architecturally significant structures. Hear that, Walgreen's!!!

The mansion was built by Ernst Lehmann who founded Chicago's Fair Department Store chain. They got their name because of the "fair" prices they offered. At one time the main store was at State and Adams in Chicago, which would have put it on Route 66 after Jackson was made one way going east.

These reenactors, both soldiers and their wives are really gung-ho about what they love. Everything they wear, or at least everything visible, has to be from the 1860s.

You had to register with Senator Stephen Douglas to have a shot at the pigroast. Of course, Abraham Lincoln was there and this guy really looked like Lincoln. Of interest, I found out he was a member of the SCV and our camp. Camp Douglas was built on the grounds of Stephen Douglas' estate.

Also on hand were generals Grant, Lee, Jackson, Longstreet, and Pickett.

The high point of any encampment is the skirmish between the blue and gray, and this was no different.

Last year, there was a preponderance of Confederate soldiers, but the call had gone out so this year's battle was a little more even. A battery of Union cannons, about five, were there, as well as a couple Confederate cannons. Let me tell you that when one of those cannons went off, you felt the concussion of it even though we weren't in line of fire. Plus, the smoke was so dense it's a wonder anyone could see what was going on along the battlefield. AND, this was just a skirmish with maybe 200 men. Just imagine the carnage and confusion at a full-scale battle.

I had to wonder what the traffic going over the Illinois Highway 83 bridge which was adjacent to the battle were thinking as they were driving over it. At times, smoke drifted over the bridge. That had to be one weird sight.

I'm happy to report that the "Secesh" as notherners derisively called Confederates, carried the day. Secesh is short for seccessionists. I once had a fellow teacher bring in a letter from the Civil War in which the southerners were called "Secesh" and the teacher wanted to know what that meant.

More to come....

"Yankees at Tara!!" --RoadDog

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