Take time, experience living Civil War history

Staff Writer
Washington Times-Reporter

Communities all over Illinois are celebrating the upcoming bicentennial birthday of Abraham Lincoln Feb. 12.

During the past year, and up until Lincoln's 200th birthday, communities have hosted events to recognize one of the nation's most distinguished presidents.

And Washington is not to be left out.

The Lincoln Bicentennial Committee of Washington was formed to organize events through the year.

During his career as a lawyer, Lincoln would make stops in Washington on his way to the Metamora Court House.

One of his various stops included R.D. Smith's Dry Goods Store, which is now known as Holland's Mercantile, on the Washington Square.

On Saturday, the committee will present a Living History of the Civil War Era on the square and at the Zinser House.

The purpose is not only to honor Lincoln's time, but also to educate the community about that time in our history.

The Civil War is still considered to be the nation's bloodiest era, not just because it was a war, but also because it was a battle during which our ancestors were at war with each other.

The Civil War is taught in high school and college history courses.

However, to see history come alive makes the message more real.

As part of the celebration, the Washington Historical Society will present Portraits of the Past. Actors will portray historical figures in Washington's history from that time and bring to life their contributions. Following the presentations, President Lincoln will share a glass of lemonade and visit with attendees.

There are several other presentations and informational displays planned for Saturday's event.

But one of the most dramatic will be Ron Kirchgessner's portrayal of Civil War surgeon Maj. Richard Conover from the 108th Illinois infantry field hospital.

As part of his demonstration, Kirchgessner sets up a battlefield hospital and performs a mock surgery.

He also tells how surgeons of the time were not required to have extensive medical training, and often learned their trade on the battlefield.

We had the opportunity to hear Kirchgessner speak last year, and it is an eye opener. Even without seeing the mock surgery, just learning about the circumstances of surgery, outside of Hollywood's version, and the efforts of field surgeons was worth seeing.

In addition to Civil War surgery and a look into the lives of Washington's war heroes, there will also be a presentation by Civil War-era dancers, who will show the dances from the 1860s, a blacksmith, spinning and weaving demonstrations and a dulcimer player.

There will also be several displays about the war.

The bicentennial committee put a lot of effort into recognizing a time when Lincoln did his best to keep our nation from self-destruction.

Saturday should prove to be a great opportunity to see a bit of Civil War history, instead of just reading about it in books.