Visitors to Civil War site Historic Sandusky used to be greeted with broken shutters and rotting wood, Tom Eastman, a self-identified history buff and local re-enactor, said Saturday.
“It was run down,” Eastman recalled of years past. “… The place was horrible. Nobody came through here.”
Now the pristine home and well-manicured lands are maintained by a wellspring of volunteers, Greg Starbuck, the director of Historic Sandusky, said during the site’s annual Park Day event.
Starbuck said the local Park Day happens in partnership with The Civil War Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of America’s battlegrounds, and has been an annual event for more than 10 years.
More than a dozen volunteers gathered at Historic Sandusky early Saturday morning to help with yard work, maintenance, painting, cleaning and more.
“It’s a way to engage the community and get them involved in being caretakers and good stewards of their local historic sites,” he said. “… It’s kind of a fun thing, builds some camaraderie.”
Sandusky was commandeered during the 1864 Battle of Lynchburg, Starbuck said, and it was used as the Union army’s headquarters.
“This was all Union camp,” he said, gesturing to the wide expanse of land. “This was the nerve center – the hub – of an army of 20,000 people … it’s kind of hard to picture it, but this was like the middle of Woodstock.”
Eastman, a member of the 11th Virginia Company Re-enactment Group, said he’s been volunteering at the site for years, whether for re-enactments or events, but this was his first time landscaping during the site’s annual Park Day.
While the event attracted more than a dozen people, Eastman, of Lynchburg, said he doesn’t think most people understand the historic significance of Sandusky.
“Most people don’t even know what Sandusky is," Eastman said. “This was Union headquarters.”
He turned, pointing out different battle sites and even areas where scenes of the documentary “Battle of Lynchburg” were filmed.
“Battles all through this area and most people don’t have a clue,” he said.
Volunteer and member of the Sandusky Board of Directors Bill Alders said he believes learning history isn’t emphasized now as much as it was in the past. He said volunteering and visiting Historic Sandusky is a good way to start.
“I guess there’s so much going on in people’s lives these days, you know, it’s hard to spend time doing stuff like appreciating history,” he said. “… you know, a wise someone once said ‘If you don’t know history, you’re doomed to repeat its failures,’ and I don’t think we can know what our country is until we know where we come from.”
Lynchburg resident Susan Eastman, a volunteer and re-enactor, said she thinks more people can find a passion for history once they understand how it relates to themselves.
“For me, history is really hand-in-hand with my genealogy,” she said. “... I wish more people cared. It’s interesting and it means more when you can tie it to yourself. If you can tie your family to an event, it just brings it alive.”
Volunteer and Historic Sandusky historical interpreter, Kelly Childress said she has loved history since she was a child and came out to clean the site because she thinks it’s extremely important to preserve local and state history.
“History bridges gaps between people,” she said. “It’s a way of making connections, not just to the past but between each other.”