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Civil War Era Brought to Life

Civil War re-enactor Rick Eisenhart regaled a rapt audience with information about Northampton County's 153rd Regiment at a March 9 presentation.

For Rick Eisenhart the Civil War isn't simply a collection of yellowed records, black and white photographs and hard-to-remember dates.

The local historical re-enactor proved that the epic War between the States is alive in his mind when he delivered a presentation about Northampton County's 153rd Regiment to a rapt audience of history buffs March 9.

At times choking back emotion, Eisenhart spoke of Hellertown resident Theodore Weaver, who joined the Union Army regiment at the age of 17 and died at 18, after being wounded in the hip during the Battle of Gettysburg.

"His birthday was November 12," said Eisenhart, who appeared alongside a fellow re-enactor in period dress.

Weaver was sent to Harrisburg to convalesce from his injury, and his father and grandfather were able to visit him there before he died, Eisenhart said.

The young soldier from the Saucon Valley also left behind a diary, which reflects what his life was like during one of the most turbulent periods in U.S. history.

One memorable incident recounted by Weaver in his diary involved his court martial for stealing a turnip, Eisenhart said. 

Ultimately, "he was fined $2," explained attendee and local historian Lee Weidner, who added that Weaver's diary will be published in its entirety in his upcoming local history tome, "Saucon Secrets, Part Two."

"This is us. This is our families," emphasized Eisenhart, whose own great-great-grandfather was a member of Northampton County's 153rd Regiment along with Weaver. "These people had guts like we can never imagine."

That is why seeing the remnants of the flag his ancestor fought under at an archives in Harrisburg was such an emotional experience for him.

"I was moved to tears," Eisenhart said. "There's very little of it left."

Portraying a Confederate soldier during a battlefield re-enactment at Gettysburg was difficult for him, he added, because he knew that on the other side of the field would have been his great-great-grandfather's regiment, the 153rd from Northampton County.

A passionate re-enactor, Eisenhart said his commitment to studying and preserving the history of the U.S. Civil War is more of "lifestyle" than a hobby, and one he is happy to share with all who are interested.

"I could go on for days, believe me, if it's about the Civil War," he told his audience. "I'm so passionate about the subject."

In June, Eisenhart noted, a Civil War re-enactment group he is a part of will host its third annual encampment at Camp Geiger in Whitehall Township.

Camp Geiger is named for Christopher Geiger, a Lehigh Valley Civil War re-enactor and National Guardsman who died of a heart attack while helping to build a school in Afghanistan in 2003, Eisenhart explained.

"In honor of Chris, this is why we have Lehigh Valley Civil War Days," he said.

This year's encampment will take place June 11-12 at the Whitehall Parkway Recreation Area.

Admission is free for spectators, but donations to benefit Civil War battlefield preservation will be accepted.

Civil War battlefield preservation is another matter close to his heart, Eisenhart said, explaining that in Gettysburg, historians are "trying to put the battlefield back to the way it was" at the time of the pivotal conflict in 1863.

Eisenhart encouraged those in attendance at the presentation to visit Lehigh Valley Civil War Days this summer, and said they can expect to encounter conditions very similar to what would have been witnessed one-and-a-half centuries ago. 

"All day long we're sniping at each other and doing what they did in those days," he said, adding that women are also involved in the encampment, as civilian re-enactors.

More information about Lehigh Valley Civil War Days is available online at www.campgeiger.org.

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