Time on the march: Small town Mass. soldiers answered Lincoln's call
Eight-year-old Kyle Trainor and his sister Caitlin, 10, stood on Main Street in front of Town Hall on Saturday morning, just as any 21st-century kids on vacation might in the company of their parents.
But for a few moments, the scene was a flashback to the 19th century, as 14 men, Civil War soldiers for the day, prepared to answer the call of President Abraham Lincoln in 1861 to help save the union.
The town of Sandwich, in fact, came through for Lincoln in that initial call with almost 100 men, known as the Sandwich Guard, according to Sandwich historian and event organizer William Daley, who spoke to the crowd of about 200.
The 10:15 a.m. ceremony to commission the soldiers was part of the town's celebration this year of its 375th birthday. The BASH — or "Bringing Alive Sandwich History" — days this summer highlight the four centuries of the town's history.
Saturday was for the 1800s, with a special emphasis in the morning on the 291 Sandwich residents who served in the Civil War and the 54 among them who were killed.
Kyle Trainor is a Civil War buff, his mother Caroline said. The family lives in Dedham and Sandwich. "It was really fun," Kyle said. "You get to see the soldiers and everybody. I liked the way they fired the guns."
During the ceremony, the faux soldiers did truly fire their rifles, after being sworn into federal military service by Sandwich resident Jonathan Leonard VI, whose great-grandfather, also Jonathan Leonard, was a medical doctor in Sandwich during the Civil War.
The Cape Cod Chorale sang "My Country, Tis of Thee." There were a few people on cell phones at the ceremony and a lot of to-go coffee cups, but the reading of the 54 names of the dead — many with last names such as "Wing" still common in town — seemed to sober the crowd.
"We actually planned it this way, and it came out," Daley said afterward, when a woman walked up and told him he'd done a good job.
The morning started early, behind the Henry T. Wing School on Water Street, as the re-enactment soldiers, all from the 22nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, prepared for their march to Town Hall for the swearing-in ceremony.
Across the grass were others re-enacting the Civil War support services of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a volunteer civilian group that provided things such as food, clothing and medical supplies. At one tent, Janet Hamilton of Kingston and Nicky Meola of Dorchester, both dressed in black hoop-skirt dresses, were setting up to do the soldiers' laundry, with washboards at their feet and a clothesline strung between tree branches.
At 9:49 a.m., Sandwich High School history teacher Mike Welch, acting as the captain of the Sandwich Guard, called his troops to order.
The men, in gray pants and navy jackets, carried canteens, tin cups and leather satchels around their waists. They attached bayonets to their rifles and waited for a Sandwich police officer to stop the traffic on Water Street.
They and their helpers marched down the street, to a lone drum beat, past a busy tea shop and centuries-old houses and the 17th-century Dexter's Grist Mill to the waiting crowd at Town Hall.