By Fred Arnold, Fairbury News Now Staff Writer
Michael Sothan of Steele City is meticulous when it comes to “doing it right.” For Sothan and other members of a group of Civil War re-enactors, who put on a series of demonstrations at last weekend’s Plymouth 125th Anniversary celebration, every detail requires specific attention.
“We love what we do or we wouldn’t be doing it,” Sothan told Fairbury News Now. “But it’s really important that we show people what life as a Civil War soldier was really like. What you see in the movies or on TV typically doesn’t portray things accurately.”
The first day we found Sothan preparing sleeping quarters for soldiers. Bedding down consisted of a simple lean-to tent, straw as a bedding and a blanket on top.
“There really wasn’t anything fancy,” he said. “There were no beds and in most cases no cots, soldiers just tried to stay up off the ground and dry.”
Sothan said the weekend activities in Plymouth included demonstrations of artillery fire, a live fire gatling gun program and close order infantry and musket drills.
Facing canon fire was particularly deadly during the Civil War. Sothan said there was no “lying on the ground” to get away from the shot. The big guns are extremely accurate from a range of a mile and a half in.
“Just imagine five football fields in length and closer, that’s what we’re talking about for lethal range,” he said.
The re-enactor said typical fire protocol could include: opening up with solid or bomb shot, followed by grape shot (think a big shotgun shell) and 60 caliber shot after that.
“Even if you laid flat on the ground the shot would bounce around and tear a person apart,” Sothan said. “Think about the carnage. It wasn’t unusual for entire towns to have their males in the infantry walking elbow to elbow two rows deep,” he added. “No one wanted to be the first to run, so they didn’t. In many cases communities lost an entire generation of people with the male population ages 18 through 30.”