Sycamore History Museum hosts ‘1862’ as part of Civil War presentation series


Reenactor Andy Hare portrays General J.E.B. Stuart describing his weapons to guests of “1862,” a lecture hosted by the Sycamore History Museum at the Federated Church on Saturday.

By Jessi Haish

Civil War reenactors told the stories of the second year of the war on Saturday. The presentation, titled “1862” was hosted by the Sycamore History Museum (SHM) and included reenactors from Grant Lee Custer & Company. SHM plans to continue the tradition, with next year’s discussion surrounding the year 1863.

The event was held at the Federated Church, 612 W. State St. in Sycamore. The church was chosen for its history; the area was home to General E.F. Dutton in the 1860s. Held on the eve of Veterans Day, members of the audience who served in the military were asked to stand to be recognized for their efforts.

Reenactors told stories of their triumphs and failures during the second year of the Civil War.

“The year is 1862,” said Civil War reenactor Larry Werline as Ulysses S. Grant. “The year our Civil War turned even more terrible.”

The reenactors included General Robert E. Lee and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, among others.

Each told the story of their involvement in the war up until 1862. They also spoke about technology during that time and how they thought the rest of the war would pan out.

Wes Wilson, a board member for SHM, said the museum started up in 1999 and this is the second installation for the Civil War series. Last year’s presentation focused on the first year of the war.

“It’s great to hold this because there is so much history in Sycamore,” Wilson said.

SHM President Jim Lyon spoke about Sycamore’s 105th infantry in the war as well as the town’s involvement in the Underground Railroad. Many homes in Sycamore were safe houses for runaway slaves during the war, Lyon said.

Lyon is also a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, which is an organization for blood relatives of members of the Civil War.

Another member, Tom Oestreicher, said the group is the oldest veteran organization in the world. He said the group’s goals include maintaining the history of the past as well as promoting patriotism and citizenship.

Oestreicher is a teacher in Genoa and collects Civil War items. His collection is currently over 800 items, and some of them were showcased after the presentation.

“I started collecting when I was 13 years old,” Oestreicher said. “I’ve loved it ever since.”

Oestreicher said he is always looking for more items and saves up all year so he can continue to add to his collection. Oestreicher’s historical items provided a backdrop for what the reenactors discussed.

Although the reenactors reflected on the past, they also talked about the possibility of the war stretching even further into the 1860s.

“Who knows what 1863 has in store for us,” Paul Wood as General Robert E. Lee said.