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History buff prepares for role in Civil War Re-Enactment in Dunkirk

DUNKIRK – A Forestville man and veteran re-enactor will portray a doctor assigned to a regiment during the Civil War Re-Enactment at Dunkirk Lighthouse and Miltary Museum on Saturday and Sunday.

A retired barber, Joseph Bolivard, 84, has been collecting and researching the Civil War for more than 30 years. This weekend, he will portray a captain with the Ninth New York Regiment, a surgeon who treated the wounded and sick.

Bolivard said he has a longtime fascination with the war. A former member of the Chautauqua County Legislature, he has been interested in the roles of local residents in the war.

Many Western New Yorkers served with the Ninth New York Regiment, he noted.

“A lot of them were farm boys who died of measles and dysentery,” he said.

The young men, who often grew up in isolated rural areas, were subjected for the first time to diseases more common to cities and other populated areas, Bolivard said. The lack of antibiotics and other modern medicines often made common illnesses fatal, he added.

Tools were limited for Civil War surgeons, who often were forced to improvise.

“When Confederate soldiers got the chance to raid a Union Army medical tent they took equipment that could be used by their own doctors,” Bolivard said. Doctors would use household items including forks and even thorns in some procedures. The forks, he said, could be used to retract skin during an amputation and thorns were used to pierce skin to close a wound.

Bolivard said he enjoys sharing the information of his research and getting younger people interested in learning about U.S. history. To this end, he is often asked to make presentations at schools. During this weekend’s re-enactment, he will deliver such a presentation at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Other events on Saturday include a 10 a.m. military drill, a 1 p.m. visit with President Lincoln and candlelight tours of the camp starting at 7 p.m.

Sunday’s events include a performance by the Canal Street String Band at 11 a.m., troop inspection at 1 p.m. and a weapons demonstration at 2 p.m. For more information visit

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