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New reenactment group aims to bring Will County Civil War history to life

In its first month, the 100th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Co. K. participated in 2 events

On Oct. 10, a small group of Civil War reenactors headed to Wilmington in costume to check out a drum at the Wilmington Area Historical Society.

Ike Widner, a trustee with the Wilmington Area Historical Society, said one of the members, Andy Partak of Manhattan, had contacted him and asked if the museum had a red drum from the 100th Illinois Infantry, which was organized in Joliet and “mustered” in Aug. 30, 1862, according to the National Park Service.

The drum was donated to the museum in 1993, Widner said.

Widner said he arranged a tour of the society’s museum and the reenactors of 100th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Co. K. appeared in costume and in character.

Tim Marcus of Aurora, a longtime reenactor and the group’s captain, said it was “amazing to him” to actually see a drum that had belonged to their unit.

“This is so close to home, it matters more,” Marcus said. “You can go out and portray anybody. But to go out and portray someone who is locally based – that’s what it’s all about.”

On the previous day – Oct. 9 – the reenactors showed their respects to the Civil War veterans buried in St. Paul’s Cemetery in Monee, which was recently placed on the register of historic places in Will County, Partak said.

the 100th Illinois Volunteer Infantry “was formed of 1,000 Joliet and Will County soldiers under Col. Frederick Bartleson, who is buried in Joliet’s Oakwood Cemetery,” according to a 1999 Herald-News story.

Partak, a longtime history buff, started delving into Civil War history and reenactment about three years ago, he said.

Both Marcus and Partak felt the area needed a group that focused that history, especially south of Interstate 80, and began doing some “intense research” of uniforms and campaigns, they said.

Partak said his wife, Eileen Partak, also is a reenactor with 100th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Co. K.

“Eileen is actually our laundress,” Andy said.

Partak said they also researched Camp Goodell, a training camp in Joliet, “which was the old fairgrounds on the East Side of Joliet,” a 2001 Herald-News story said.

“You can travel to Kentucky and see the battlefields and artifacts for the Civil War,” Marcus said. “But if you look close to home, it’s here, too.”

So the purpose of 100th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Co. K. is to educate, recreate and show honor to local veterans, especially in smaller cemeteries where the veterans are often forgotten, they said.

“I want to take what we do as living historians and use it to draw interest in the local historical societies,” Marcus said.

Many of these societies, although small, have quite a bit of local Civil War information, Marcus said. Partak, who is also involved with the Manhattan Township Historical Society, said an individual had lent the Manhattan group Civil War letters from a Joliet veteran.

“They deepened the insight into the personal side of the Civil War,” Partak said.

Marcus feels reenactors, too, deepen their knowledge of history by interacting with the other reenactors and sharing their experiences. This knowledge goes beyond the facts.

“You get to smell the gunpowder,” Marcus said. “You get to hear the cannons.”

A few years ago, Marcus and Partak also founded Camp Cypress, which meets in Manhattan. However this group “is not intended to re-create any one specific camp from the American Civil War” but to offer a place for reenactors to “share experiences, study marching orders, drill, and work to our impressions,” the Camp Cypress Facebook page said.

“Tim is the commander and me and Eileen are the landowners,” Partak said. “And we play those roles.”

This past summer, Camp Cypress participated in the Manhattan Township Historical Society Living History Day and the Will County Thresherman’s Association show, Partak said.

“As we grow, we’ll be able to do full scale battle reenactments,” Marcus said. “But right now, we’re focusing on southern/central Will County.”

For information on the 100th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Co. K., email the Manhattan Township Historical Society at manhattanhistorical@yahoo.com.