November brings a new way for families to explore history as the Old State Capitol State Historic Site offers four “Civil War Saturdays.”
Visitors can learn about medicine and funeral customs during the Civil War, the critical work of volunteer groups, the military contributions of Gen. George Meade and the indispensable items that soldiers relied upon every day.
The first “Civil War Saturday” takes places Nov. 5 at 1 p.m. Jon Austin will portray a doctor giving a 19th-century medical lecture, complete with a “corpse.”
He will address period medicine and chemistry, how soldiers’ remains were shipped home, Abraham Lincoln’s funeral and more.
On Nov. 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., volunteers with the Springfield Ladies Soldiers’ Aid Society will present living history demonstrations of the critical work accomplished by women during the Civil War, such as sending food and medical supplies to wounded soldiers.
Then, on Nov. 19, living history reenactor Dave Eisle of Rockford will appear at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. as George Meade, who led Union forces to a critical victory at the Battle of Gettysburg over the South’s best commander, Robert E. Lee. What is most amazing is that Meade took command of the Union Army just a few days before the battle.
Finally, on Nov. 26, reenactor Troy Gilmore will portray a Union soldier at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. This “Meet a Boy in Blue” presentation will focus on the many items soldiers carried into service as well as the challenges and opportunities related to items that were generally issued to soldiers during the Civil War.
The Old State Capitol was the seat of Illinois government from 1839 to 1876. Abraham Lincoln served as a legislator there, launched his 1858 Senate campaign there with his famous “House Divided” speech, and used it as his unofficial campaign headquarters and presidential transition office.
It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Admission is free, but a donation of $5 per person is suggested.
The site is operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. IHPA protects the state’s historic resources, which contribute to education, culture and the economy. Its sites include ancient burial mounds, forts and buildings erected by settlers, and homes connected to famous Illinoisans.