“In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.” (Edmund Burke)

Maureen Mikyska (80,) a lifetime learner, is fascinated with the Civil War period.

“Everyone thinks a sword is sharp,” Miyska explained, brandishing one from her collection. “Actually, it is used for whacking someone on horseback. It can do a lot of damage.”

Miyska owns an extensive collection of Civil War memorabilia including muskets, swords, drums, lithographs, and clothing. “The time-period just intrigues me,” she explained. “It must have been horrible.” Miyska went on to describe that people were accustomed to gathering around a dying person and holding vigil as he passed on. “During the war, there was so much sudden death, so far

from home. After the battle of Fort Wagner, all the union soldiers were just thrown into a ditch and buried together. It must have been horrible for the families.” Miyska got interested in the Civil War history through Bob McGowan. His enthusiasm spread to a willing student. Soon Miyska regularly attended McHenry County Civil War Roundtable Meetings at the Historical Society in Union.

More than weapons and battles interests Miyska. She has a closet full of women’s hats, dresses, cloaks, parasols, and gloves. She pointed out the “hem-savers” that were part of nearly every woman’s dress during that period. “Dresses often dragged on the ground or floor,” she explained. “The hem-saver could be replaced.” Doing so, kept a perfectly good dress wearable. Sustainability wore a different name in those days; it was known as practicality, or even frugality.

Miyska finds it more and more difficult to find memorabilia. There are more collectors, items cost more, and there are many more counterfeits. “You really need to know what you’re doing,” she said. Miyska recommends a new enthusiast read as much as possible and listen to real experts through the Round Tables. “There’s so much to learn, you could spend a lifetime and not learn it all.” She also recommends visiting The Civil War Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

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