HAMMONTON - Jeff Rodriguez and Paul Lader, both of Wenonah, demonstrated bayonet fighting tactics Saturday during a Civil War camp re-enactment at historic Batsto Village.
In tandem, the two men swung muskets fitted with fearsome steel bayonets as they battled invisible Confederate soldiers.
"They would say, 'Charge bayonet!' and the men would yell," Rodriguez said. "They would parry a blow and then smack the guy."
"That's in the manual," Lader joked. "Smack the guy."
This was truly a New Jersey re-enactment.
Company D of the 7th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, based in Margate, and the Col. Louis R. Francine Camp 7, based in Hammonton, set up 1860s-style tents and supplies in a small encampment at Wharton State Forest's Batsto Village, where they marched in drills on the lawn and let visitors ask questions and examine their union uniforms and artifacts up close.
The surroundings of historic farmsteads, barns and fences gave the camp an air of authenticity.
The two groups stage these encampments at different places in South Jersey throughout the year. Their enthusiasm for New Jersey's history and role in the war is infectious.
Most members, including union electrician Dave Hann, of Mullica Township, have a personal connection to this pivotal point in American history. His great-great-great-grandfather, Charles Ellet, fought for the Michigan infantry.
New Jersey's role in the American Revolution is well-known, with Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware River, among many other famous events. But Hann said New Jersey's role in the Civil War is less commemorated, since all the fighting took place outside the state.
"If my ancestor had died in the war, I wouldn't be here today," he said.
Shawn Kenny, of Ventnor, is a finance teacher at Atlantic City High School. One of his distant relations served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War, but he had trouble finding specifics of his service.
"He participated in an effort to interrupt the slave trade in Africa," Kenny said. "Then President Lincoln called them back to squeeze the South and cut off supplies in the 'Anaconda Plan.'"
Frank Tomasello, a salesman from Hamilton Township, said one of his great uncles, John R. Pedrick, fought in the war. He researched his family connection and found old photos and even letters Pedrick wrote home during the war.
"In every letter, he would write, 'The war should be over soon,'" Tomasello said. "He was really unhappy when Gen. George McClellan was replaced by (Ambrose) Burnside."
Tomasello said he enjoys taking part in the re-enactments.
"It's a great group of people to be involved with," he said. "You can never re-create the experience the soldiers had. But we come close."
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