COAL CITY – Ron Marketti, a self-described history buff, shared tales, trivia and facts and showed items from his personal collection of memorabilia from the Civil War during a recent presentation at the Coal City Public Library.
Marketti, a retired math teacher, had reproductions of the many flags flown during the era, beginning with the Union’s flown over Fort Sumter in 1861 – which he said is the battle that began the war.
The red-and-white-striped flag had a blue block with 33 white stars in a diamond pattern.
An accident that resulted in a keg of gunpowder exploding and killing two Confederate soldier caused the only casualties of the battle.
“They were among the first casualties of the war,” Marketti said.
He showed the progression of the other Confederate flags of the war, with the number of stars changing. The first national flag of the Confederacy had seven stars representing the first seven states that seceded from the Union.
The fourth Confederate flag was shaped as a square, he said, with a blue cross containing white stars and a red background. The shape and design were meant to distinguish it from the Union flag.
“It was different so the troops wouldn’t be confused as to where their side was,” Marketti said.
The South’s fifth flag is the one still flown today by some in the South, which wasn’t really a national flag, he said. It was, “The Naval Jack,” flown from 1863 to 1865 on ships.
Yet another Confederate flag was white with an “X” in the corner. That one was not a popular one.
“It looked like a flag of surrender or a flag of truce,” Marketti said.
A red stripe was added to its end in 1865, giving it the nickname, “the blood-stained banner.” Robert E. Lee surrendered a month after its use.
Marketti said probably the most significant aspect of the Civil War was the carnage.
“At least 620,000 perished,” he said.
Marketti showed several of the weapons used in the war and told of their significance.
Included was a rifled musket, the 1861 Springfield, that shot a .58-caliber “hunk of lead.” It fired a Minié ball, he said, which actually was a conical bullet.
About 2 million of the projectiles were made to supply the Union army.
The process to fire a round was time-consuming, which Marketti described in detail.
“A good soldier could fire one round two to three times a minute while standing up,” he said. “You gotta be a brave soldier to fire this gun in an open field.”
Marketti showed examples of how firearms advanced through the war, progressing to a repeating carbine that contained a magazine in the shoulder stock. It could fire 14 to 20 rounds a minute.
Marketti said that soldiers had a saying about that weapon.
“They’d load ’em on Sunday and shoot ’em all week,” he said.
Marketti also displayed Civil War-era canteens, crucifixes carried
by chaplains and missionaries,
Confederate money, soldiers’ photos, horses and mules and typical meals
of the soldiers.
He said that although the average age range of the soldier in that war was 18 to 39, many were young.
About 100,000 soldiers were younger than 15, he said. Many enlisted as runaways, orphans or those who wanted to follow their older brothers and fathers into battle.
“These kids actually went into the war as nurses, scouts, drummer boys,” Marketti said. “They started with a variety of tasks.”
Many rose through the ranks. Johnny Clem was 11 when he signed up. He retired in 1915 as a brigadier general.
Marketti said he had advice for those visiting the larger Civil War battle sites, such as Gettysburg.
“Hire a guide,” he said. “They’re a very nominal price, and they’re very, very informative. Many of them are authors, and many of them are experts.”