BY ROBERT L. BAKER
For Howard Wolfe of Dalton, a new exhibit at the Everhart Museum in Scranton was like a homecoming of sorts.
There on the wall was a portrait of his great grandfather, Sgt. William H. Wolfe, who was a leader of Band Co. C, 14th Regiment of the Veteran Reserve Corps in Washington, D.C.
He joined the service from Scranton where he had been a schoolteacher, and like so many of the 2.2 million Union soldiers that would eventually make it to the front lines, became entrenched in a 4-year struggle to keep the nation together, and eventually rid it of slavery.
Next to the soldier’s picture was the front page of a 1913 Factoryville newspaper which shared the story of Sgt. Wolfe’s decorated life which ended in Wyoming County.
On the Museum wall facing Sgt. Wolfe were engravings of Isaac and Albert Post, staunch abolitionists whose Montrose home was part of the Underground Railroad.
In the next room was a broadside of a draft list of soldiers being called up in each of Wyoming County’s municipalities in 1864.
And then in the next room was a quilt of Sarah Walker of Montrose who took an active role in local relief work for the U.S. Sanitary Commission and then shared that life with Susquehanna County’s 19th Century historian Emily Blackman and wouldn’t you know it, there was a photograph that literally documented them sharing stories.
Welcome to “With Bullets Singing All Around Me: Regional Stories of the Civil War” which opened Friday and runs until July 17.
The title of the exhibit comes from Dr. Isaiah Fawkes Everhart, the museum’s namesake who served as a surgeon in the war.
His memoir tells about what battle life was like while the war was raging around him, and when apparently a hacksaw was almost as important as a pair of forceps.
If you ever wanted to learn about what a medic’s life was like 150 years ago, look at the tools and the crude prosthetic device used to replace a soldier’s leg.
Howard Wolfe said the Everhart was not the place to be if you’re interest in the Civil War was to recount the big battles and highpoints.
“Yes, they had their place,” the Commander of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War across all of Pennsylvania, said.
“Now more than ever, people need to seriously take time and reflect that yes, these were living, breathing brothers, fathers, sons and uncles who went off to war but also had to get on with life,” Wolfe said.
“But, they also left families behind who also cared about making sure their sacrifices were not in vain,” he added. “This show is a great place to share how people were coping back home.”
Museum executive director Cara Sutherland wondered Thursday night if Northeast Pennsylvanians of the 1860s had any inkling how much their lives were about to change by the Civil War which began with the firing on Fort Sumter in South Carolina in April of 1861 and ended with the surrender at Appomattox Court House in Virginia in April 1865
She noted that 150 years ago to the very next day, Southern delegates were convening in Montgomery, Ala., to establish what would become the Confederacy. That news, however, would not reach the early residents of northeast Pennsylvania.
“They really didn’t know what was about to hit them,” Sutherland said.
Scott Teeters of Falls said he was touched by the diversity of stories represented in the Everhart’s exhibit, and was impressed that so many historical societies saw a need to share this side of the Civil War.
Those willing to donate pieces of their collection included most county historical societies across the region as well as the GAR Museum in Scranton of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War (Lt. Ezra Griffin Camp #8) and the Center for Anti-Slavery Studies in Montrose.
He was impressed by so many things in the exhibit including that Dr. Everhart’s actual military uniform had survived 150 years along with his surgeon’s tools, and that soldiers thrived on hard tack compared to today’s MREs but mostly because of the little stories that seemed hidden behind every display.
He said that one was focused on the four Lyons’ brothers of the Civil War from Susquehanna County, three of whom made the ultimate sacrifice, and must have left a terrible void back home.
Curator Nezka Pfeifer told the first-night crowd the exhibit was a “grassroots history.”
And, she hoped it touched people’s lives across the region in ways that she was also touched while working with so many diverse groups that were excited to have a part in making a statement about how important the Civil War was.
“It was the defining moment in American history,” Wolfe said. “I hope that everyone who sees this exhibit realizes that the entire country made a huge sacrifice to keep the Union together.”
“That was their story, and ours, too,” Wolfe said