Paul Herring stands next to the gravestone of Chaplain Calkins, the man he represents during re-enactments.)

Civil War re-enactor honors late son through service as chaplain

Carlisle, Pa.    Friday, June 21, 2013

As a Civil War re-enactor, Paul Herring helps keep history alive, but more importantly he honors the memory of his late son.

A resident of Cumberland Crossings, a Diakon Senior Living Community in Carlisle, Pa., Herring serves as chaplain for the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, the same unit his son Mark served for 15 years.

“After [Mark] died, his oldest son and I decided to join in his memory,” says Herring. “I read the history of the 149th and discovered that they had only one chaplain during the Civil War—James Fredrick Calkins.”

As a retired United Methodist minister, Herring decided it would be appropriate for him to serve the re-enactment group as "Chaplain Calkins." With that in mind, he set out to visit the church Calkins had served and the cemetery in which he is buried, as well as the nearby historical society. He learned that while chaplains were commissioned as captains, they did not wear regular uniforms, captain’s bars or anything identifying them as an officer.

"I discovered that my son Mark had enlisted most of the young men and a few women in that unit and had trained them,” he says.

“One of the main reasons was they did not want to get shot at,” says Herring, adding that chaplains wore a plain black suit and did not carry weapons. “I facetiously say I carry the sword of the Lord, the bible.”
Eight to 10 times a year, Herring joins members of the 149th in various re-enactments.

“I do a full service on Sunday and assist in any way I can with the other members, whether hauling wood, keeping the fire going, or getting food for the unit,” he says. “During the Civil War, chaplains often helped the doctors because there were a lot of people who were ill or had amputations.”

Paul Herring serves as chaplain during a re-enactment.

Paul Herring serves as chaplain during a re-enactment.


Herring ministers to many of the re-enactors who do impressions of soldiers injured in the war. “I will have different prayers for them depending on whether they were wounded or killed,” he says. “The chaplains in those days ministered to either side.”

While Herring is participating in these weekend re-enactments, his son is never far from his thoughts. “I have a tent that actually was my son’s tent. I have his cot,” he says, adding that he also has his son’s bible. “The old bible was produced in 1841, 20 years before the Civil War. It is in pretty bad condition. I have it wrapped with a big rubber band to hold it together.”

Men and women who were trained by his son surround him.

“When I started re-enacting with the 149th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, I discovered that my son Mark had enlisted most of the young men and a few women in that unit and had trained them,” he says. “Over the last four years, I have been re-enacting with them and learned that he was very beloved by them and others who knew him.”

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