Custer re-enactor gives history at celebration

NEW RUMLEY – George Armstrong Custer returned to his birthplace Saturday in the person of Rick Williams telling stories of his exploits during the third year of the Civil War, to include the Gettysburg campaign.

The Custer re-enactor also spoke of the history of “Taps” after it was played by Jim Thompson of the George A. Custer Post 3072 Jewett Veterans of Foreign Wars during opening ceremonies of Custer Celebration Day.

Williams said after many days of military campaigns along the James River, Admiral James Butterfield put the addition of some bugle notes into the tune that was played as communication throughout battle camps to become “Taps.”

“In the 1830s, there was a military song called ‘The Scott Tatoo’ used to bed down soldiers and it was from this song that “Taps” was derived. It was played first at a funeral for an officer denied the ceremony of firing over his grave, so the song was played instead. From then on, it became standard music and never fails to touch a part of the heart each time it is heard,” Williams said

Leroy VanHorne, Custer Memorial Association secretary, gave the invocation. He read from “Battlefields and Blessings,” written on June 1, 1862, exactly 150 years ago, about a military man reading his testament and, like Joshua, prayed with uplifted hands for victory.

“Leaders looked to God to guide them but praying for enemies and friends should be done as well,” he said.

The Custer event brings fans from all over, including Richard Gaetano of Pittsburgh, who has attended for many years. Joan Mancuso of Erie came to the event and traveled to other Custer sites in Monroe, Mich., Montana; and North Dakota.

Randy Dutton, Armstrong VFW commander; Chester Carman, senior vice commander; and James Thompson, quartermaster, raised the flag and placed wreaths of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, McClellan Camp 91 at the foot of the Custer statue.

Civil War reenactors fired a replica of Cannon No. 233, which was the first fired by the Union Army in the opening of the Battle of Gettysburg. (The originial is at the Gettysburg national monument.) The group demonstrated the steps to be taken for safety, including making sure the barrel was cleared before putting in the powder and sighting the the cannon.

One of the types of firing mechanisms was a shell much like a mortar with fragments that fall upon the enemy and cause damage. The cannon firing took seven men to complete the operation, it was noted.

VanHorne said the Custer celebration originally held on the first Saturday of December will be changed to the second Saturday because of other scheduled events the same day this year. It will be held Dec. 14.

Ron Kimble of Dover had his artillery on display Saturday in the Custer Museum and Center.