PROSPECT — Despite enduring rainy conditions on one day, 3rd Maine Infantry Company A was not deterred in its effort to live, for an entire weekend, as if the clock had been turned back 160 years to a more tumultuous period in our nation’s difficult growth and, at the same time, bring history to life for hundreds of visitors.

The current calendar may have read July 17-18, 2021, but inside historic Fort Knox on this weekend were men, women and children in period dress living their best — and, perhaps, often most difficult — lives of 1861-1865.

That is because those who make up the 3rd Maine Infantry Company A spent the weekend involved in formations, infantry drills, discussions, musket firing demonstrations, battle scenarios, bayonet drills, fighting in fortifications and firing a canon that reverberated across the valley below and that left smoke wafting in the air for miles.

The men, women and children played their roles perfectly, never coming out of character during marches, for meals (using period dishes and utensils), discussions or simply relaxing near their tent encampments inside and outside the fort. One of the period doctors even used a straight razor and small mirror to shave for onlookers.

Soldiers march in formation. Ken Waltz

The pandemic put a crimp in the organization’s style the past year-plus, but the group has been able to travel more extensively around New England and New York this summer. In fact, while many of those in the company live in Maine, others come from other states for events and give of their time away from family and friends because, as they said, those in the 3rd Maine Infantry are their second families.

According to the group’s website, Company A, Third Maine Regiment Volunteer Infantry, fighting for the Union since 1861, is a nonprofit educational and living history organization dedicated to preserving the memory of Maine’s role in the American Civil War. Through living history events, battle reenactments, and educational presentations, the organization works to teach others about life for Maine soldiers and civilians 1861-1865.

The doctor shaves with a straight razor. Ken Waltz

“We also strive to serve as a living memorial to all of the people who gave their lives during the war, and in doing so, gave us these United States of America,” is a quote on the website.

The group portrays Company A of the 3rd Maine, a regiment recruited early in the war from communities of the Kennebec River Valley. The regiment was therefore known as the “Kennebec Regiment.” Company A was formed from a Bath militia unit called the Bath City Grays, who mustered into federal service on June 4, 1861.

Looking down the barrel of a cannon. Ken Waltz

Shortly before traveling to Virginia and its first encounter with Confederate troops at the Manassas railroad junction, Company A exchanged its gray militia uniforms for federal blue. During the next three years the 3rd Maine participated in most of the major campaigns in Virginia and Pennsylvania, operating as part of the Army of the Potomac. By the time it mustered out of service on June 28, 1864, about 1,600 men had served in the regiment, of whom 134 had been killed or mortally wounded in battle, 149 had died of disease, and 33 had been incarcerated in Confederate prisons.

“A great many more were discharged prior to the end of their term of service because of serious wounds or chronic illness,” is a quote on the group’s website.

Cooking on an open flame. Ken Waltz

The majority of the those men in 1861-64 were tradesmen, shipwrights, shopkeepers, and artisans, while the rest of the unit came from towns up and down the Kennebec River — Gardiner, Hallowell, Augusta, Winthrop, Waterville, Winslow and Skowhegan. The unit encamped on the grounds of Capitol Park, directly in front of the Maine State House and overlooked the Kennebec River.

The regiment was commanded by Col. Oliver O. Howard from Leeds, who went on to serve as a general during the war. Howard was the head of the Freedmen’s Bureau after the war (Howard University is named after him). The 3rd Maine first “saw the elephant,” a Civil War term meaning one’s first time in battle, at the first battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, and during the next three years was engaged in 25 major battles, including the Peninsular Campaign, Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness and Spotsylvania.

Soldiers take a break for a cool drink — and to escape the outdoor heat — inside the fort. Ken Waltz

Most of the current membership of the resurrected Company A, 3rd Maine live in coastal Maine between the Kennebec Valley and Portland.

“We are a family-oriented group whose members share a common interest in several aspects of Civil War history,” the website states. “Our infantry learn and practice mid-19th century military drill, which we use in reenactments and demonstrations. Our renown musicians provide displays of period fife and drum pieces and support the infantry on the battlefield. Our surgeon, hospital steward, and matrons provide excellent impressions of Civil War medical care and play active roles in caring for unit members in the field. Our chaplain oversees the spiritual and moral well-being the of the men. Our civilian ladies portray members of the Maine Camp and Hospital Association and the United States Sanitary Commission, relief societies that proved critical for supplying food, clothing, hospital items, and comfort to the men in the army far from home. Company A, 3rd Maine Regiment Volunteer Infantry has acquired a reputation for historical authenticity both within and outside of the state. The quality of our portrayals of Civil War soldiers and civilians is demonstrated by our membership in the United States Volunteers as a line company. We are sometimes joined at national reenactment events by our sister unit, 3rd Maine Company F.”

An encampment inside the fort. Ken Waltz

Fort Knox in Prospect. Ken Waltz