Re-enactors stage Civil War skirmish at historic homestead in Bensenville
At this time 150 years ago, members of Taylor's Battery would have been marching in Georgia, far from their hometown of Chicago, fighting Civil War skirmishes and preparing for a big battle at the Chattahoochee River.
On Sunday, soldiers in the battery were at Fischer Farm in Bensenville, teaching suburban residents about firing cannons and preparing for a re-enacted battle in the afternoon.
Taylor's Battery represented the Union during the second annual Civil War Days at the farm, where re-enactors like Jerry Stefek of Lisle brought to life the military tactics, clothing, campsites and culture of the battles fought 150 years ago.
"Most re-enactors will replicate an actual Civil War unit," Stefek said as he recapped the story of the group he and fellow hobbyists were recreating Sunday, officially named the First Illinois Light Artillery Company B, but nicknamed for its leader, Capt. Ezra Taylor.
When President Abraham Lincoln -- who was on site Sunday in re-enactor form -- called for military volunteers, Taylor organized a unit of men who lived near Division Street. The Chicago Board of Trade bought cannons and equipment for the battery, which went into battle under Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, fighting in Tennessee and heading south along the Mississippi River.
At this time in 1864, the battery would have been somewhere in Georgia, having walked all the way there from Chicago in three years, Stefek told visitors who were curious about the unit's history.
Six-year-old David Miller of Wood Dale inspected the cannon re-enactors displayed throughout the afternoon and toured the Fischer family house, which was built more than 50 years after the Civil War in 1920.
"My son really loves history and so do I," said David's mom, Susie Miller. "He's especially interested in the Civil War."
While the Fischer home doesn't date back to the Civil War era, two other buildings on the property at 16W680 Grand Ave. were built before the war began in 1861. The original homestead and a barn both have been standing since about 1838.
Fischer Farm Curator Jonathan Sebastian said the Bensenville Park District recently received a $108,200 state grant to restore the wood-frame barn, which is cluttered with tools, boxes, leaves, ladders and lumber, and to recreate a hexagonal hen house that used to be on the property.
The farm is a fitting site for a Civil War re-enactment, Sebastian said, because it is one of the oldest homesteads in DuPage County. Two Fischer family members served in Union armies during the war between North and South.
Re-enactors also saw value in the historic venue to stage a mock battle.
"It adds a lot to the atmosphere," Stefek said.