HARVARD -- Littered with tents and Union soldiers, the Harvard Common was thrown back into 1864 last weekend as part of a Civil War re-enactment.

The 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, now a group of historical re-enactors, slept in a "campaign camp" that the army would have set up while it was on the move.

The 28th was known during the war as the Irish Brigade, consisting mainly of Irish immigrants and descendants.

Visitors to the scene could learn about all aspects of camp, and even the duties of women left on the homefront.

Soldiers demonstrated how to fire muskets, explained their living situation and displayed their clothing.

"We hope to give a person an immersion experience, that they come in and kind of can lose themselves in 1864 -- with the exception of the traffic going up and down the street," said Gus Gallagher, portraying a sergeant major. "But we'll do the best we can."

At a clothing station, Gallagher pointed out that everything was made of wool.

"The shirts, the coats, the uniforms were wool," he said. "It was naturally occuring and it was hardy and it was cheap."

The encampment also featured a drummer, which Gallagher said could actually give commands to the troops during battle.

"When you're in a combat situation with 10,000 soldiers, firing artillery, et cetera, you can't hear voices anymore," he said.


"But you can hear the drums, you can hear the bugles."

Tom Higgins, who portrayed a captain, explained that soldiers at a campaign camp would simply "drop and flop."

"They would keep everything on, they would lay their musket down on the ground beside them and they would sleep," he said. "They might put a blanket over them, but they would have no cover."

Each soldier, he said, was given half of a tent that was made of two pieces of canvas.

The event was organized by eighth grade teacher Kristin McManus, and eighth graders experienced the scene on Friday.

Representing the women at home, Tracy Wilkins said she talked to the students about the jobs that they would've taken over if their brothers or fathers left to fight.

"We talked about the role of the relief societies and how women and children would spend hours scraping lint and pulling fibers to make material to send to the hospitals to be able to treat wounds and so forth," she said.

The weekend continued with firing and marching drills at the camp, as well as tours about Harvard's own Civil War soldiers.

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