By Jasmine Willis
WAYLAND — If you have driven by the museum lately you will notice a lot has been happening at the local historical society.
This month kicked off with a celebration on the 30-year anniversary and a Civil War program. The programs have been on hold since the Covid-19 Pandemic had the world shut down. Now things have been slowly getting back to the new normal. On June 5 the Wayland Historical Society will hold their Victorian Tea at 2 p.m. This is an rsvp event and tickets are $10 each. If you wish to attend, contact a member of the society for tickets.
The Bennett Family provided an informative look into the Civil War and how they dressed. Joanne, Zach, and Samantha Bennett offered some insight into the daily routine of a solider and women in that era. The soldiers all had very distinctive uniforms to tell them all apart.
Samantha mentioned the calvary and artillery uniforms. In the start of the war all uniforms were basically the same. This caused a problem moving forward as the war progressed. It was decided that separate uniforms needed to be issued. Samantha said the men only had about three shirts a year. Depending on what branch you were part of you would have sky blue pants or dark pants. These came with a piece of twine that would adjust the sizes.
“There wasn’t enough uniforms so they had to outsource the material. They were issued white flannel shirts that were uncomfortable to wear and filled with pesky vermin. The soldiers would have to smoke their shirts or crush them with their fingers,” Samantha said. “The trousers came in one size and were mass produced. There was a piece of twine in the fabric that would be adjusted to the size. The calvary and artillery also had different symbols on their hats and clothing to distinguish them.”
Most of the soldiers were native born on both sides. However, there was about 10 percent African Americans and 30 percent immigrants who also fought. This brought forth different cultures of dress and entertainment. Music was a huge part of the war, and some familiar tunes were introduced on the battlefield. Children as young as 10-years-old would have the excitement of marching with the soldiers to entertain them with music.
“There were a couple units not many people know about. The Zouaves Unit was inspired out of the African dress. It was brought to in to be taught in Chicago. They had red baggy pants and a fireman shirt. They also wore white garters,” she said. “The other unit was called Berdan’s Sharpshooters. These units came out of New York. They wore dark green uniforms to act as camouflage. In order to be considered for this unit the men had to pass a test. They had to make 10 rounds in the same hole from the length of two football fields.”
The connection to the Civil War comes from Smith Haight. He was an ancestor of the Bennett Family. He was killed only two days into battle at the age of 21. After the Battle of Gettysburg President Lincoln issued a draft. The grandfather of the Bennett line paid another to take his place in the draft. If not for this act the Bennett’s claim they wouldn’t be here.
Samantha talked about how the day to day lives of the women went in this era. There was easier access to fabrics and dressmaking wasn’t as cumbersome. The Singer Sewing Machine was a huge hit in this time. It made it so all women could have a sewing machine with monthly payments.
“Most of the women only had three dresses at the time. They would only wash the undergarments. They had one for church and two for working. Some women could afford a tea dress or ball gown. There were also dresses meant for maternity wear. They wouldn’t let the dress touch any of their skin. They would wear the dress until it was all worn out and make a new one,” she said.
The Bennett Family has been part of the Civil War reenactment for many years. They have replicas of the era on display when they do programs.
The Wayland-Cohocton students have completed a gazebo project that can be viewed near the train caboose. It is a sign of the craftsmanship these students are learning at school. It shows the passion of woodwork.
Keep informed on several upcoming events by visiting the Wayland Historical Society social media.