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Plenty to see during Pipestone's Civil War Days

PIPESTONE -- There was a little bit of something for everyone of all ages during the Civil War Days celebration Saturday and Sunday. There were, naturally, the sorts of things aficionados of the era would expect, such as battle re-enactments and ...

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Union field artillery let loose on Confederate positions Saturday during the Pipestone Civil War Days battle re-enactment. (Tim Middagh/Daily Globe)

PIPESTONE -- There was a little bit of something for everyone of all ages during the Civil War Days celebration Saturday and Sunday.

There were, naturally, the sorts of things aficionados of the era would expect, such as battle re-enactments and a wide variety of historical programs and artifacts. But it’s probably to say that the average Civil War Days attendee would not have anticipated encountering a laundress, or watching a baseball game.

Vickie Wendel and her husband, Ron, live in Coon Rapids and are part of the 2nd Minnesota Battery of Light Artillery. The group of re-enactors -- as described on its website, http://www.2mnbattery.org/ , “are dedicated to education and the preservation of history, offering learning opportunities to schools, organizations and the public.”

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While Ron’s role is with the gun crew, Vickie portrays the part of a woman that was very important to the Army back in the 1860s; she kept clothes clean.

“My official role with this unit is laundress,” Vickie said. “A laundress was an authorized part of the Army, and only women that were truly part of the Army were allowed in this role. All other women were camp followers, and that wasn’t a very nice thing to be called.”

Laundresses were often wives of soldiers or else a close family member, and had to be of excellent moral character. They also needed to have more abilities than what it took to simply wash garments.

“You had to know how to read and write and do match,” said Vickie, adding that a laundress typically had a small ledger book in which she kept track of what each soldier owed for cleaning services. “The best inference is that I charged the rate the Army said I could based on what was charged in each given community.”

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Laundresses traveled with the Army and lived in the camps. Vickie, as would a woman in her position 150 years ago, had a boiler (“to make sure you killed the lice”), a scrub board, a basket (they weighed in the neighborhood of 30 pounds) and an iron in her possession for her display and demonstration.

“These are period-correct but not antique,” she said. “I scrounge antique shops, second-hand garage stores, you name it. None of it has antique, but it has the look of the era.”

Both Vickie and her husband have been involved with the 2nd Minnesota Battery of Light Artillery for nearly 20 years.

“We kind of made a conscious decision to do this,” she explained. “Our kids were out of the house and we just didn’t want to sit at home. … We wanted to find a hobby and we both love history, so this is what we chose.”

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Doug “Freight Train” Ernst loves, history, too, not to mention baseball. So, he figured, why not combine the two?

Ernst is one of two manager of the Quicksteps, a Twin Cities-based team of baseball players who compete on the diamond in games played with 1860 rules. Two other teams -- the Westerners, out of Topeka, Kan., and Henderson Brothers, whose roster is spotted with locales across the Midwest -- took to the field for nine-inning games Saturday,

“I got started with this back in 1994, and we were the first team in Minnesota to play under 1860 rules,” Ernst said. “I knew a guy named Rich (Arpi), who played with the Ohio Village Muffins on Columbus, Ohio … and he moved back to Minnesota and became part of SABR, the Society of American Baseball Research. Then he met the guy who is today’s (Saturday’s) umpire, and that led to the idea to start the team.”

While there are many similarities to modern-day baseball, pitchers in 1860 threw a mere 45 feet from home plate compared to today’s 60 feet, 6 inches. There was no raised pitcher’s mound, however -- simply a small iron plate in the ground. A line extended a total of 12 feet to the third-base and first-base sides of that plate, and pitchers could deliver the ball from anywhere behind that line as long as they didn’t cross it.

There were a couple of other major differences evident: players didn’t wear gloves (“Gloves are for wimps!” Ernst exclaimed), and fly balls successfully fielded on one bounce counted as outs. Rules can be viewed by visiting https://quickstepsbaseballclub.org/rules-we-play-by-1860/ .


“As volunteers, we try to limit ourselves to two events a month,” Ernst said, adding that team members usually take the field during the months of May through August. “There are 25 guys that I can pull from … it’s just whoever is available.”

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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