CHRIS PEDOTA / THE RECORD
Robert Costello of Piscataway and Cheryl Mustachio of Middletown portraying his Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln on Sunday at the Zabriskie House in River Edge. They joined Civil War reenactors who came to Historic New Bridge Landing to demonstrate and talk about the Civil War as they commemorated Veterans Day.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2011
BY JOHN A. GAVIN
STAFF WRITER THE RECORD
RIVER EDGE – Veterans Day was commemorated with a little history as well as patriotism Sunday as a Civil War reenactment troop and a visit by a famous president paid tribute to the 623,000 lives lost 150 years ago — as well as fallen heroes of all wars.
Held at Historic New Bridge Landing, the event included prayers and a military gun salute, a 19th-century battlefield demonstration, lectures by historians and a talk by Robert Costello, who portrays Abraham Lincoln throughout the country.
The event, which drew about 130 people, commemorated both Veterans Day — which will be celebrated Friday — and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
“It was probably the most divisive war that America has ever fought,” said Jack Goudsward, trustee emeritus of the Bergen County Historical Society, which sponsored the event. “We are trying to honor and show people what the Civil War soldiers went through to preserve the freedom that we Americans enjoy today.”
With field maneuvers and rifle and mortar firing demonstrations by reenactors with the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers outfit, viewers were able to get a glimpse of life in battle when every casualty was American.
Reenactors told stories of how soldiers fired on the wrong troops because uniforms didn’t have a set color and it was easy to mistake allies for enemies.
Henry Shotwell, a group member who performs around the country, said the period is an important part of American history, triggering industrial advances during wartime production of weaponry and railroad transportation.
“Before the Civil War, it was correct to say ‘the United States are’ but afterward we began to think ourselves as “the United States is,' ” said Shotwell, a toxicologist from Hackettstown. “We changed from an agrarian county to an industrial society.”
Lincoln’s visit had historical significance, too.
In February 1861, after his first inaugural, he stopped in Trenton, where he addressed each house of the Legislature, separately.
Costello, who has studied every aspect of Honest Abe’s life, said the president’s objective was to persuade the Legislature – which was close to voting to secede — to remain loyal to the union.
“If you are going to do a character and do it properly, you have to know the character,” said Costello, of Piscataway, who does 35 to 50 reenactments a year.
In many of those visits, Cheryl Mustachio, a teacher from Middletown, plays his wife, Mary.
Dressed in a tall black hat, Costello, a title insurance adjuster, said Lincoln also visited Newark and New Brunswick before heading to Philadelphia on that trip.
Costello, a teacher, said that Mary Lincoln would often vacation at Long Branch on the Jersey Shore.
Jane Russo, who brought her daughters, Caroline, 11, and Olivia, 14, said the day was well spent honoring veterans and learning something new.
“Anything that keeps history living is great,” said Russo, of Ridgewood, whose father and brother are both veterans. “It’s good to come and support local things. If we don’t support it, it won’t be here.”