Prattsville hosts Civil War musicians, actors
John Quinn, left, member of the Zaddock Pratt Museum board of directors, plays along with Civil War musicians during the Second Annual Col. George Watson Pratt Heritage Day in Prattsville on Saturday[, August 28, 2010]. (Colin DeVries/Hudson-Catskill Newspapers)
By Colin DeVries
Published: Monday, August 30, 2010 2:14 AM EDT
PRATTSVILLE — Amidst the late summer majesty of the mountaintop, a contingent of Civil War reenactors reminded us of our roots this past weekend.
Contingents of Civil War soldiers and musicians laid claim to the Prattsville green on Saturday, pitching tents and bringing the old fife and drum to life.
The event was a celebration of the Second Annual Col. George Watson Pratt Heritage Day, sponsored by the Zaddock Pratt Museum on Main Street in Prattsville.
Rural Felicity, a period drum and fife ensemble, featured original tunes played during the time, as well as pieces from as early as the American Revolution.
“The Civil War was really the end of (the fife and drum),” said Nancy Scanlon of East Berne, a member of Rural Felicity, “because they started to use the bugle.”
In the wartimes, the fife and drum were more than mere musical instruments; they were communication devices.
The pairing of the fife and drum, particularly on the battlefield, was used to issue commands to troops on the front lines. Officers would often relay orders through particular fife and drum codes, which troops learned in drills.
Back at camp, the fife and drum were used to tell warriors when they should wake, eat and sleep.
In honor of the fife and drum corps which kept Civil War soldiers on target, the Pratt Museum is currently featuring an exhibit honoring the young musicians who issued those orders.
“Drummer Boys: Answering the Call” is a new exhibit at the museum which spotlights local drummer boys who served during the Civil War with New York’s 20th Militia Regiment, the Ulster Guard, commanded by Col. George Watson Pratt, the only son of Zaddock Pratt.
The exhibit speaks to the overall value of the drummer boy during battle and the important role many prepubescent youths played during wartimes.
The museum is currently showcasing another exhibit titled “Silver Eagles: The War Colonels of the 20th NYS Militia,” which provides history on the three colonels, including Col. Pratt, which led the 20th Regiment.
The 20th Regiment consisted of many Greene County residents and fought valiantly in battles at Antietam, Md. and Fredericksburg, Va.
A total of 120 men were lost in the regiment, including nine officers.
According to John C. Quinn, a member on the Zaddock Pratt Museum board of directors, 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War, which would be equivalent to about six million Americans dying in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.
“It was an absolutely devastating loss of life,” Quinn said.
About two percent of the total Civil War era population was killed in the war. The 1860 census listed 25 million people living in the United States.
Scanlon commented that it was important to remember the history of the Civil War and to remind people of the cost, especially in today’s world of divisive politics.
“It’s important to keep our history close,” she said, “or we’re bound to repeat it.”
To reach reporter Colin DeVries please call 518-943-2100 ext. 3325, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.