'Mary Lincoln,' 'Clara Barton' come to tea

Fundraiser helping to restore 120 graves of Civil War veterans

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Members of the Ingram Historical Society had tea on a recent Sunday with some very special guests from the Civil War era -- Mary Todd Lincoln and Clara Barton.

The society, in its 20th year, sponsored a Victorian High Tea Nov. 3, served on fine china to benefit the work of the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves, a Civil War re-enactor group. The group is restoring 120 Civil War veteran grave sites at Chartiers Cemetery on Noblestown Road.

The society also sponsors walking tours to raise awareness of local history, helps students with research for school history projects and stages educational programs for the Boy Scouts and women's groups, said Vicki Mentzer, vice president of the society.

Ms. Mentzer also has a direct connection to the Civil War.

"My great-great-grandfather was a drummer boy during the war," she said.

This year, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the society decided to donate the proceeds from its annual fall Victorian High Tea to the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves.

There was plenty of Civil War atmosphere at the tea.

Jennifer Zukowski of Harrison dressed in period costume as Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, who became famous for her service to wounded soldiers during the Civil War. She is often referred to in historical texts as "The Angel of the Battlefield."

Mrs. Zukowski said she has been portraying Clara Barton for 12 years at Civil War Roundtables and other era events.

'My great-grandfather, George Taylor, served in the war with the 63rd Pennsylvania, and Clara Barton treated some of the wounded 9th Pennsylvania soldiers," she said.

She also bears some resemblance to Clara Barton.

"I look a little like her, and we are both about the same size," she said.

Joanne Shelby-Klein of Monroeville dressed as Mary Todd Lincoln and was the featured speaker.

"I'm here to tell Mary's story and talk about the experiences of the women during the Civil War and to help educate people about the Civil War," she said.

Mary Pat Parrish, who founded the Ingram Historical Society and whose family has lived in the borough for four generations, said the event was a way to help the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves.

Martin Neaman, preservation chairman of the 9th Pennsylvania, said he appreciated the efforts of the historical society to help with the restoration project at Chartiers Cemetery, where two recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor from the Civil War are buried.

He said many of the 120 grave markers have deteriorated over time, with some even entangled in tree roots.

The 9th Pennsylvania Reserves also supports the operation of the Capt. Thomas Espy Post No. 153 of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War museum at the Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie.

The Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR, was founded in 1866 as a veterans organization for soldiers who served in Union Army and Navy.

The museum contains many artifacts from the Civil War, including rifles, swords and historical documents.

"It is the most intact collection from GAR posts left in the country," he said, and the 9th Pennsylvania continues to work to improve the collection.

"We are raising money to replace a stack of three rifles. We have purchased two and have one left, and we have more work to do at the cemetery," said Mr. Neaman, of Banksville.

Jason Leggett traveled from his home in Lisbon, Ohio, to support the fundraising effort.

"I have always been interested in military history and loved the Civil War era in particular," he said.

Mr. Leggett portrays a corporal in re-enactments with the 66th Ohio, and he participated in battlefield scenes in the 2003 movie, "God and Generals," depicting the events leading to the Battle of Gettysburg.

He said he quickly gained an appreciation for the toughness and dedication of the Civil War era soldiers from his work on the film.

"We were running sprints across a field in 100 degree heat in woolen uniforms with about 60 pounds of equipment, including rifles," he said.


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