LIVERMORE — History beckoned Saturday night for 28 people of all ages attending the Veterans Day tribute to local Civil War veterans in the Ladies' Parlor at the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center.
Following a heritage dinner of ham, roasted vegetables from the Norlands’ garden, applesauce, rolls and dessert in the historic Farmer’s Cottage, participants adjourned to the parlor for a rare opportunity to hear readings from Civil War letters and diaries and songs sung with piano accompaniment in an authentic setting.
Host Willi Irish, portraying Clara Howard and garbed in a long black dress from the era, told the audience to imagine that on Saturday night the year was 1870, five years after The War of the Rebellion — as it was called in the North — had ended.
Ray Fleury portrayed Norlands worker Israel Martel. Behind him, atop the piano, stood a portrait of Samuel Benjamin Washburn (1824-1890), the seventh child of Israel and Martha Washburn.
"It really touched nearly everybody," Irish said as Howard in character. "For me, it was my brother, who was in the 20th Maine Regiment.
"He went off to war and I don't think a day went by but we thought of him: Was he all right? Did he have enough to eat? Did he have enough clothes to keep him warm in the winter? Was his health all right? Or had he been wounded and we just hadn't got the news?" she asked.
Howard spoke of how high spirits were in the North at the beginning of the war when people "thought it was going to be a short venture."
Norlands interpretive staff Claire Tanner, Anna Keller and Robin Hakala launched into the first of two songs, accompanied by Alan Hakala on the guitar and fiddle and Jerry Ellis on the piano.
The vocalists sang "The Battle Cry of Freedom" and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."
Afterward, Howard narrated Samuel Washburn's "Civil War Journal" covering the years 1860-1863.
Samuel was the only seafaring son who shipped out at the age of 18 and later became master of his own vessel.
During the Civil War, Samuel was acting master in the U.S. Navy and served as an officer on the gunboat Galena, Howard said.
During a battle at Fort Darling, he was wounded in the hip. Howard said that in that battle, the Galena, which didn't have thick enough armor, was struck 46 times and Samuel was struck by an 8-inch solid shot. The wound, which damaged nerves, left him on crutches the rest of his life.
Samuel returned home to Livermore to care for his aging father, she said.
The musicians and vocalists then performed "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp," before Howard and Martel read short biographies, recognizing other Livermore men who went off to war, including a few who were killed in action.
That was followed by the vocalists performing "Tenting Tonight," and then everyone in the audience joined in the singing of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Ian Jewett of Livermore, standing outside the museum under a cloudless, star-laden sky, performed a solemn rendering of "taps," and the program ended.