Soldiers again re-garrison Fort Wilkins

COPPER HARBOR – The Battery D, First Michigan Light Artillery reenactment organization was at Fort Wilkins this past weekend for its 32nd annual encampment. Members of Battery D portray everyday Army life as it was during the Civil War in the 1860s. Activities included an hourly demonstration of the operation of a Civil War-era cannon, small-arms demonstrations and general camp life. Visitors were welcome to talk with members and ask questions.

“We have members from both the Lower and Upper Peninsula,” Dan Wolf of Battle Creek said. Wolf’s role in the organization is to portray a typical field postmaster at a post office, complete with ink wells, stationery and pens typical of the period for youth to write with and experience using a fountain pen.

Wolf said the battery has approximately 60 members on the roll, but it is seldom all members assemble for an event, due partially to scheduling conflicts. Another reason, Wolf said, is the “battery is aging.

“Younger guys don’t seem to have the interest in reenacting anymore,” Wolf said, “and a lot of the members that were really active have passed away, or just can’t travel long distances to make events.”

Jim Newkirk, also a downstate resident, is the founder of Battery D, and depending on the number of members attending an event, portrays either a captain or a major. He said the battery recently sold its third cannon because there were no longer enough active members to work all three guns.

In a Union Army Civil War artillery battle, a full battery was made up of six guns, divided into three sections. With the loss of the third gun, Battery D now functions as just one section. Each gun requires a crew of six men.

“One of the things that always gets me when we’re at Fort Wilkins is the echo,” Newkirk said. “When we fire one of the guns, the echo of the firing coming from the ridge across Lake Fanny Hooe is louder than the gun’s discharge.”