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Reclaiming history on the battlefields of Greene County
In a field where gunshots blast and blue-coated men stumble over hillocks, wildflowers make their own quiet music. Goldenrod streaks the fields with sunshine and Ironweed blooms bright purple.
The White Covered Bridge Festival in Gerards Fort is so crowded today, people have begun to park on the side of the highway. I've just finished singing onstage with the folk band, "Unreliable Sallys," and we've left the banjo and guitars in their cases and wondered down to the Civil War reenactment, where my 3-year old Beatrix climbs onto my hip and complains, "It's too loud!"
So we duck into the cool shadows of White Covered Bridge. My husband touches a dark wood beam and wonders if he's seeing any of the original lumber. Beatrix finds a place by the bank to toss stones into shadowy, cool Whiteley Creek and I wander over to a campsite complete with white canvas tents, a fire, and women who look like they just walked out of "Gone with the Wind," except they're wives and family of Union men.
The gathering looks like a family reunion of sorts, with young and older folk sitting under trees, chatting and waiting for the soldiers to return from their skirmishes.
"We claim everyone as family," Jennifer Foley explains, her bright blue eyes smiling from beneath her bonnet. Wood smoke curls into the trees. Jennifer's two nieces, clad in emerald green period dresses, have just strolled down away from the battle, and her nephew is in uniform today, too.
Karen Foley sits near Jennifer, and in gray dress that looks as if it's well layered, I imagine she must be rather warm. But she's well used to the garb by now. She tells me that when her husband decided to don a uniform years ago, she thought it was just a passing fancy. "We've been together for 20 years," she says, and re-enactments are now a family affair.
Jennifer gives me a brief tour of the camp, which she explains would have been Officer's Quarters, with "plenty of shade and amenities." A couple jam jars stand ready next to a hunk of bread and near the fire, a black pot promises something warm for the men after battle. Usually, Jennifer explains, a soldier would be left behind to guard camp, but today there's a young lad, Cameron, who looks cute as a button under his cap but not too intimidating.
As Jennifer gives ...
A lone member of the 140th Pennsylvania Civil War re-enactors groups keeps an eye on the enemy encampment of the 35th Virginia, just a stone's throw away across the creek at the White Covered Bridge near Garards Fort Saturday. The encampments were part of the annual Covered Bridge Festival Saturday and Sunday in Carmichaels and Garards Fort. Music, crafts and a variety of food were all part of the festivities that included several skirmishes between the Civil War groups throughout the weekend. (JACK GRAHAM/O-R)
I sure appreciate the great contribution you and your men made to Dog Jack during the days you came to Darlington and participated in the film. It was thrilling to work with you guys - the realistic portrayal of union soldiers was only the beginning of the story. What impressed me was the way you all worked as a team, your flawless work ethic and attitude you brought to the set each day. Regardless of whatever challenges were presented by each shooting day - the heat, waiting, the energy required for the running during repeated takes - you guys stayed faithful and passionate about your work. It was an immense pleasure to work with you and get to know you all.
Thanks, for being a part of our lives and laying down some incredible performances that are permanently etched into this story.
I hope we can stay in touch with all of you. Of course we're planning to have both a Chicago and Pittsburgh premiere so I'll be seeing you then if not soon.
Edward T. McDougal
Civil War re-enactors fill the Darlington Township woods during Tuesday's filming of 'Dog Jack.'
The Times / Lucy Schaly
Clutching rifles, with thick, wool Union uniforms clinging to their bodies, two dozen men marched through poison ivy and hunkered down for hours in a Darlington Township trench Tuesday.
Their mission - to bring history to life as they film the Civil War movie "Dog Jack."
Their biggest ally is Piglet, a deaf 3-year-old pit bull terrier starring as the film's title character.
The mild-mannered Piglet has endured sweltering heat, and while a few members of the Chicago-based movie crew have caught poison ivy, the dog, too, has developed some kind of rash, while shooting scenes in the dense woods of rural Darlington.
"He's been a real trooper," said Tracy Doyle, the Illinois woman who adopted Piglet three years ago after the then-puppy was found abandoned in a garbage bin.
Piglet's hardscrabble background befits his portrayal of the real-life Dog Jack, the mutt who became the mascot of the 102nd Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
"He was so beloved by the regiment he actually was captured twice by the Confederates and used in a prisoner exchange," Doyle said. "To get him back, they exchanged Confederate soldiers for him."
To follow the script in her film debut, Piglet follows hand-signals taught to her by Doyle.
"She feeds off the actions of the actors, too," Doyle said.
For 2˝ weeks, "Dog Jack" will film scenes in the woods and sprawling hills on the 50-acre Fishers of Boys religious facility in Darlington Township.
Producer-director Edward McDougal, whose credentials include several Christian films, said he chose Beaver County for filming because of the diverse scenery and large supply of local Civil War re-enactors who will appear as extras.
Along with Piglet, the movie stars Ben Gardner, a 15-year-old sophomore from Chicago, who in his film debut will portray Jedd, a fictional runaway slave who befriends the dog.
The independent movie will be based on the 1988 book "Dog Jack" by Florence Biros, who learned about the heroic dog while in Pittsburgh researching the Civil War.
"I'd found his pictures in the archives of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh and had initially wanted to know more about his involvement in the war becau...
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
By Lillian Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Dog Jack, a mixed-breed warrior, conducted himself with such valor during the Civil War that the men of the 102nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment exchanged a Confederate prisoner for him when he was captured and commissioned a portrait of him at war's end.
The portrait hangs in Soldiers & Sailors National Military Museum & Memorial in Oakland: The brown-and-white dog with the patch on his left eye lies on the floor, his head turned to look straight at the viewer.
Many years ago, Florence Biros of New Wilmington, Lawrence County, saw it and had to know more. Soon there was "Dog Jack," the novel. Now "Dog Jack," the movie -- starring a deaf female pit bull named Piglet -- is being filmed.
A plaque hanging by the large oil portrait of Dog Jack tells much of what is known about him. He was the mascot of the Niagara Volunteer Fire Co. on Penn Avenue, which was headquartered close to the present-day Engine Co. 3 in the Strip District. He went with the firefighters when they enlisted in the 102nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment in 1861 "and fought in most of their battles except during his period of captivity when he was a prisoner of war," reads the plaque. He took part in the Wilderness campaign, the battle of Spotsylvania and the siege of Petersburg, all in Virginia.
Dog Jack was known for charging straight to the front lines during battle, said Josh Fox, a Soldiers & Sailors curator. He was said to understand bugle calls and obey orders only from his own regiment. After battle, he would roam the battlefield, seeking out wounded and dead comrades. He twice was taken prisoner.
"Captured at Salem Church, six months later he was exchanged for a Confederate prisoner at Belle Isle, Va." says the plaque (other accounts say he was traded for two Confederate POWs). "At Savage Station he was again captured but managed to escape."
Jack was badly wounded at Malvern Hill in Virginia but returned to the regiment after recovering in a field hospital. His last campaign was in Maryland.
On Dec. 23, 1864, Dog Jack disappeared in Fr...
By VIRGINIA ROSS
DARLINGTON, Pa. — Florence Biros saw the picture of Dog Jack hanging on a wall at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh and knew she had to learn more about the former mascot of the 102nd Regiment P.V.V. Washington Infantry.
"I fell in love," said Biros, of New Wilmington, Pa. "That was over 30 years ago, and I am still fascinated with him."
Biros recently accompanied a movie crew to Fishers of Boys Christian retreat center in Darlington Township, Beaver County. After decades of waiting and trying to convince movie makers that Dog Jack is a worthy subject, Biros is watching a lifelong dream come true.
"I always thought this story would make a wonderful movie," she said. "We'll see if everyone else agrees."
More than 130 years ago, the mongrel dog wandered into the Fifth Avenue Fire House in Pittsburgh. When the firefighters volunteered to join the 102nd, Dog Jack became part of the Civil War regiment along with the men. He became a prisoner of war after being captured by the Confederate Army. Later, he was exchanged for a Confederate soldier and returned to his regiment.
Inspired by Dog Jack's story, Biros incorporated it into a novel about the animal, a runaway slave boy named Jed and the chaplain A.M. Stewart.
McDougal Films of Chicago is putting the story to film. Parts of the movie are being filmed in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio and in Illinois. For the last few weeks, battle scenes have been created at Fishers of Boys. Local filming is wrapping up this week.
Biros said the more she learned about Dog Jack the more she came to love him. She has sold thousands of copies of her book, which is available through the publishing house she and her husband own, Son-Rise Publications & Distribution Co. of New Wilmington.
"I started researching Jack, and I couldn't stop," she said. "I found myself crying about a dog. I couldn't believe it. But his story touches hearts. I receive letters from children all the time. They've read the book, and they love him."
Biros said she is hopeful a premiere showing of the film will be presented at Soldiers and Sailors.
"It's such a wonderful story," she said. "I am hoping the result is a touching, heartwarming, family movie. I think Jack deserves that."
PENNSYLVANIA NEWSPAPER ASSOCIATION
2005 KEYSTONE PRESS AWARDS
The following stories (there will be five total), written by GreeneSpeak Editor & Publisher Cindy Bailey, comprises our Feature Beat Reporting entry. The beat was local history.
[Repinted from GREENESPEAK MAGAZINE, October 2004].
JOLLYTOWN—You probably already know that a statue of Greene County’s first Civil War casualty stands in Jollytown. But you may not know that a mile or so up the road, his birthplace was once named “Hero” in his honor.
The Taylor family doesn’t want you to forget.
That’s why Marion Taylor, Jesse’s great-great-great nephew, recently led a two-year effort to get a historical marker placed in what was once the hamlet of Hero.
That marker, complete with tintypes of Jesse and his parents, John and Mary, as well as a brief account of his life, was unveiled September 11. It is situated across the road from the Taylor family cemetery, where Jesse and about 40 of his relatives are laid to rest.
A brief dedication service for the sign was held at the Jollytown United Methodist Church, which was built on the same spot where the Methodist Episcopal Church once stood, according to Marion Taylor. In August 1861, Jesse attended a Civil War rally there and, along with his brother Thomas, heeded the call of his nation, enlisting in the Company F, 7th Regiment West Virginia Volunteer Infantry.
Another indirect descendant of Jesse, Carl Donley, told the story of the fateful day, October 26, 1861, when 21-one-year-old Jesse made the ultimate sacrifice.
Only the day before, Donley said, “Jesse joked that he would catch the cannon balls and throw ‘em back.”
Eerily, a cannon ball in the hip killed Jesse instantly the next day as the regiment marched into Romney, W. Va.
A biographical profile prepared for Memory Medallion, Inc. by Marion Taylor and Don King describes what happened.
“The rebels were in possession of the town, being under the command of Col. McDonald,
who opened fire on our troops when about half a mile of the town, having two or three brass pieces posted in a graveyard near the church. Our regiment was marching toward the town on pike road, and, after firing two or three shots Jesse Taylor was instantly killed, falling by the roadside, never uttering a word.
“Thus in the short space of only about six weeks after ...
Reenactors fire their muskets outside of the Ramada Inn on Saturday afternoon as part of a Civil War conference there.
Blue & Gray fans learn new Gettysburg facts seven score later
BY JANET L. METZNER
The Dominion Post
The Battle of Gettysburg may not have been the chance meeting between Union and Confederate soldiers that many people believe, said Morgantown resident Ed Flowers, former vice president of WVU.
Flowers, who is treasurer of the Mason-Dixon Civil War Round Table in Morgantown, was among the 50 people attending the group's second annual symposium Saturday at the Ramada Inn.
"The Union knew pretty precisely what Gen. (Robert E.) Lee's units were doing," Flowers said, relaying what he learned at the event. "The Union knew (where Confederate troops were headed). That's why they sent a unit there first and picked out the high ground. That gave them the advantage."
Flowers was recounting a presentation by keynote speaker Barry Stevenson, a retired CIA officer and lecturer at the National War College in Washington, D.C. Stevenson credits intelligence gathering by Union troops as helping secure the North's victory at Gettysburg in 1863.
"This was one of the unique things that people didn't know," Flowers said. "Many who heard the talk probably heard it for the first time, as I did."
The symposium, titled "The Civil War in West Virginia: Foreshadowing the Future," was the group's second annual symposium, co-sponsored by the WVU Department of History, Prickett's Fort Foundation and the Stonewall Jackson Civil War Round Table of Bridgeport.
The West Virginia Humanities Council, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, provided some money for the project.
Ron Rittenhouse, chief photographer for The Dominion Post, discussed photography of the time, using Civil War-era photographs from his personal collection as part of the presentation.
A case of Civil War artifacts, including documents and photographs, was displayed by John Cuthbert of the WVU Library's West Virginia and Regional History Collection. That collection, housed in the Wise Library, a research library on WVU's main campus, is the largest historical collection in the state, Cutberth said.
As a dramatic ...
Roger Doty of Waynesburg, left, speaks .to youngsters Saturday at a Civil War re-enactment camp in South Franklin Township.
Civil War re-enactors eager to share stories
By TERRI T. JOHNSON, Staff writer
Bradley Wilson said had he lived 140 years ago, he probably would have joined the Union
Union troops to fight the Confederates in the Civil War. Instead, he's content to participate in area war re-enactments and to munch on hot dogs during the lunch breaks.
Wilson, 13, of Waynesburg, was one of about 50 Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and their friends to ,
take part in an encampment Friday through Sunday on a strip of flat land just south of Lone Pine Country Club in South Franklin Township. Wilson is a member of Troop 1168 from Rices Landing.
Scout Dennis Piatt, 10, of Washington, and a member of Troop 1378 from Houston, said the best part was "looking at the guns and stuff, and how they made bullets." The worst part was the rain. Scattered showers dampened the gathering Saturday. The re-enactment was the first such event for both boys.
"Sgt." Pat Larkin of Canonsburg is a veteran of Civil War reenactments. Larkin is a member of the 140th Pennsylvania Volunteer Co. A, a Civil War group that meets monthly.
Larkin first became interested in Civil War re-enactments and encampments when he learned his great-great-great-grandfather fought for the Union. Now Larkin's son, Michael, 16, is active in the 140th group as well. The younger Larkin, a sophomore at Canon-McMillan High School, said he was in the fifth grade when his father sparked his interest in the Civil War.
"I'll do this for years," Larkin said. "I want to go to (California University of Pennsylvania) and be a history major and go into the military ," Larkin said.
"Lt." Kevin Collins of Houston, also a member of the 140th, along with Larkin and his son, started the first encampment for local scouts last summer and spent a greater part of the past year organizing this season's gathering.
The three-day event was a learning experience disguised as fun. There were six stations where the boys, ages 8 to 17, learned of life as a Union soldier in the 1860s from making bullets, to firing a musket, to how injured soldiers were treated by a field surgeon.
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Roger Doty of the 140th. Pennsylvania Volunteers, Amy and Bradley Wilson, center, and Angel Doty will be among historical re-enactors at the festival.
It’s harvest time in Greene County
The 23rd. annual Harvest Festival will be held from 10 am. To 5 pm. Saturday and Sunday at the Greene County Historical Society in Waynesburg.
Activities include demonstration of wool spinning, pottery throwing, wood carving and candle dipping by local artisans and craftsmen, who also will be selling their wares.
Family entertainment will be offered featuring the festival’s mascot, the 10-foot tall, walking talking “Mr. Scarecrow.”
There will also be story telling, magic, animal tricks, juggling, clog dancing and music played by local Suzuki Method violin students.
Educational entertainment will include a Whiskey Rebellion exhibit and lecture, a living history encampment honoring the local Civil War unit, Company A, operation of an 1800’s-era printing press, frontiersmen from the era Of 1750 to 1840 and an on grounds archaeological excavation.
The W.A. Young Machine Shop and Foundry in Rices Landing, a turn of the century machine shop, is a short drive from the museum and will be in operation all weekend.
Homemade food and apple cider will be available.
The museum is on Old Route 31, e miles east of Waynesburg. Call 627-3204 for Information.