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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Jed Vaccaro holds his daughter Arabella, 5 months, during Saturday's Muster on the St. Marys at the Historic Old Fort.

  • Barbara Kieninger makes a chicken, rice, and vegetable stew during Saturday's event. Muster on the St. Marys continues today at 10 a.m.

Sunday, May 07, 2017 1:00 am

Mustering together at Old Fort

Visitors get chance to talk with soldiers from various wars

STEVE WARDEN | The Journal Gazette

Craig Keith and his two sons Gentry, 8, and Pierson, 4, walked up the gravel path that led into the Historic Old Fort, where previous centuries would greet them.

“When I was their age, I liked to look and see how people did it in years past,” Craig said. “You get an idea of the sacrifices people made back then.”

From six Revolutionary War soldiers who marched through the fort to an early 1900s Bavarian soldier who talked with World War I re-enactors from the United States and France, to several costumed in Civil War uniforms, the Old Fort was a history book come to life, including the smell of campfires burning to the thunder of a cannon that opened the Muster on the St. Marys activities Saturday. The event continues today at 10 a.m.

Wearing his pointed helmet and explaining how the rifle he held worked, Mike Hil­de­brant was in full World War I Bavarian soldier's regalia. It was, in a sense, in homage to his great-great-grandfather Wilhelm Schmidt, who died in battle.

Hildebrant, who has been a re-enactment volunteer for nearly 20 years, removed his helmet to display the three-inch spike on top. “It's to deflect saber blows,” he said. It also served as a rank classification.

Only a few feet away was a cluster of Civil War soldiers – three Union and one Confederate.

“He's a prisoner,” Union soldier Will Merley said of Confederate Pvt. Maxwell Giesler. From the grime on their hands and faces to their tattered uniforms, both looked strikingly authentic.

“It's saving history,” said Merley in his blue Union uniform. “If you look around, history is disappearing left and right. It doesn't matter if it's military or not. We need to stick to the roots of what formed this country, anywhere from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War.”

Matt Berndt, also in Union garb, jumped ahead several decades when he showed off some privately owned memorabilia primarily from World War I.

He hoisted a Madsen machine gun that was used in World War I, and reused in World War II. It weighed 20 pounds and had a 30-round ammunition clip. One of the few items that did not come from the First World War era was a fleece-lined jacket worn by Japanese Zero pilots.

“Today's a timeline event, so it's really about educating the public,” Berndt said.