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Saving the Civil War past

Living history is alive and well in Vermont. From annual French and Indian War reenactments on Lake Champlain to a Civil War encampment in Orwell, Vermonters like to dress up and play soldier, especially when it comes to educating the public about the nations heritage. In the case of the Civil War, theres always a Vermont audience fascinated with the war that divided a nation. Maybe the current fascination with the 19th century war has a lot to do with the disturbing signs of deep political divisions afoot, yet again, in the land. The Hemlocks are familiar to Addison County residents and have been seen at the Vermont Historical Society's History Expo. They wow audiences when firing their original Civil War cannonold no. 229or when firing a volley from their authentic Enfield musket replicas. Now members of the non-profit Hemlocks have successfully rescued a piece of historyin this case the Civil War relics of Sgt. William Chapin of the Third Vermont Infantry Regiment-Company A. The regiment company is the same company the Hemlocks emulate in their living history presentations. William Chapin, from Westminter, Vt., was only 21 years old when he enlisted in the Third Vermont. He joined Company A and trained at old Camp Baxter in St. Johnsbury. He then traveled south to witness the brutality of combat at Lee's Mill, Va., during the Peninsula Campaign. Chapin, an ancestor of the late popular American singer and songwriter Harry Chapin, became a member of Vermont's "Old Brigade." Vermont regiment members that served together for the duration of the war eventually became part of the Sixth Army Corps. Chapin became a corporal and was discharged as a sergeant after he was wounded at the Wilderness and Cedar Creek, both battles steeped in Vermont history with the Old Brigade seeing some of its fiercest fighting. The Cedar Creek Room at the State House commemorates that battle with the painting by Julian Scott. Chapin returned to Vermont, joined the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) as well as the New Hampshire Militia. Included in this collection of his material are a tinplate photograph from his war years, his forage cap, copper name tag, sword, sword belt and cap box, corporal chevrons, discharge papers as well as his papers on his promotion to sergeant. The Hemlock collection is on permanent display at the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury.

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