Bringing history to life


On the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle at Gettysburg, a New Richmond man stood on the very same ground proudly displaying his Union soldier uniform.

Glenn Newby, 76, is a Civil War re-enactor who travels to events dedicated to bringing the nation's history to life.

"My son's (Scott) been doing this kind of thing for a few years," Newby said. "I've been kind of tagging along with him."

For Christmas, Newby's son bought him a membership to the area Civil War re-enactment group Battery I, 1st U.S. Artillery. The 20-member unit touts members from the Twin Cities area and across Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Together, the Newbys fire cannons during various events depicting Civil War battles. They participate in a couple Civil War re-enactment events every year, traveling to at least one distant location each summer.

"It's a good time," Newby said. "I have a general interest in the Civil War and I've read up on a lot of it. But you get to sitting around the campfire with some of these guys, and they know every detail of Civil War history. It's enjoyable."

When the opportunity arose for Newby to travel to Gettysburg for the 150th anniversary celebration, he jumped at the chance. He and his son participated in the July 3-7 gathering.

"It's not a big party or anything," Newby said. "It was a somber deal. I was glad to be part of it."

About 10,000 re-enactors played the parts of the Union and Confederate soldiers. All of the re-enactors lived in Civil War type tent complexes and avoided modern conveniences during their time at Gettysburg.

"They insist on being authentic. I couldn't wear these glasses," Newby said, pointing to his modern pair of spectacles. "If they aren't from the Civil War period, you couldn't have them."

Approximately 80,000 spectators were on hand to watch the scripted re-enactment of various battles near Gettysburg.

Re-enactors were provided a list of rules and regulations, and approximately 50 volunteers helped guide and direct the action of each battle to maintain a certain level of historic accuracy, Newby said.

"When you witness it all, it's just a tiny scale of what went on during the CIvil War," he said. "It gives you an appreciation of the courage that people had back then."

As cannon gunners, Newby and his son were at the rear of the action firing fake rounds toward the battle.

"All the cannon fire is one of the highlights for me," he said. "There is a lot of noise and smoke. You could tell how hard it must have been for the gunners ... they couldn't see because the smoke obliterates your view."

During his stay at Gettysburg, Newby said he participated in two or three simulated battles each day.

"Each very closely simulated what actually happened in the battles," Newby said. "It gives you an understanding of what the people went through during the Civil War."

A military veteran himself, Newby served in the Marine Corps from 1958-62. He was a navigator with the aviation wing, flying transports.

He worked as a middle manager with 3M for 32 years prior to retiring. He said he plans to continue being a Civil War re-enactor for as long as he can, maybe as long as 10 years or more.