Military roots run deep in the family of this Glenview dentist, whose ancestors died fighting in the Civil War 150 years ago. Discover how three generations of war re-enactors are connecting with history.
Honor and history are important to Tom Hauff, 79, whose family members have served in the U.S. military since the Civil War. Hauff was an Army dentist during the Vietnam War era, stationed in Texas; he continues his dental practice in Northbrook.
To honor his family’s tradition and help educate the public about our military history, Hauff, his son Rob and grandson John all participate in Civil War re-enactment groups in the Northern Illinois area.
What got you interested in Civil War history?
My great-grandfather’s sword. My father, Vernon, kept it in our basement, and when I was young, I took it and kept it. His grandfather was Johann Hauff. He and his three brothers came to America in the 1850s to make a new life in Wisconsin. Three of them enlisted in the Union Army: Johann, Lars and Henrik. They were part of the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Regiment, sometimes called the ‘Scandinavian Regiment,’ because so many members were from Norway. They even spoke Norwegian during battles.
Johann was wounded and Lars became ill, but both survived the war. Johann rose to become a sergeant major. Henrik was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. He had been in America only 535 days, and had just been promoted to Captain a month earlier.
How did you get into re-enacting?
One of my dental patients did it and invited me to see an event. I took my son, Rob, who was in high school at the time. I took my camera along to take some pictures. They put Rob in a uniform and took him out in the field. After the battle, he came back and said, ‘Dad, this is the greatest thing! This is something we could do together.’
The next thing you know, I’m buying two uniforms, two pairs of boots, all those accessories. Rob and I have been doing this for at least 30 years now. His son, John, joined us in Spring 1992 as a five-month old child.
What organizations are you affiliated with?
We originally joined Battery A, 1st Illinois Light Artillery Regiment, sometimes called the Chicago Light Artillery, a re-enactment group. Later we connected with Custer Camp No. 1, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), and still later started their Sons of Veterans Reserve (SVR) unit, the Mulligan Battery. Our membership is primarily from the North Shore area and the western suburbs of Chicago. Custer Camp is one of eight in Illinois. We meet bi-monthly at Hackney’s on Lake Avenue, in Glenview.
The SUVCW is a fraternal organization dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War. They are the legal successors to the Grand Army of the Republic, one of the largest veterans’ organizations in our country’s history. The SVR is the ceremonial uniformed military component of the SUVCW.
Now, we do considerably more activities with the Custer SVR than with the Chicago Light Artillery. I’m past Camp Commander of the Custer Camp, having served two terms. Rob is currently Senior Vice-Commander. I’m now Commander of the Mulligan Battery, officially titled Battery L, 1st Illinois Light Artillery.
We participate in a lot of ceremonial and living history events. Last year, we were involved in 12 ceremonies, all in this general area. On Memorial Day, for example, we participate in events at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago, together with the Chicago Light Artillery.
Why do you participate in such events?
I think honoring veterans, both past and present, is important, and something that should be done. Part of our charge as members of the SUVCW is to clean and refurbish, and sometimes replace, the headstones of Civil War veterans. Then, we rededicate them in a special ceremony. But our ceremonies are not limited to just Civil War veterans.
What kinds of guns are in your battery, and how are they used in ceremonies?
Our SVR unit owns a full-scale howitzer, and a three-quarters-scale Parrott rifled cannon. Increasingly, more events require full-scale cannons, so the Parrott gun gets used less and less. Since it’s easier to move, load and shoot, we have used it at the Naperville band concert when they perform the ‘1812 Overture.’
At most events, Rob runs the gun crew and calls the commands. Depending on how many members come to an event, sometimes we have enough for a complete crew, sometimes we’re a little short. The minimum number is five to safely load and fire the piece.
What area re-enactment events do you attend?
The Civil War Days event at the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda is probably the biggest one in Illinois. It draws more than 800 re-enactors from all over, each July. It’s also one of the few such events with a mounted cavalry, and the night firing of cannons on Saturday evening is impressive. We also help the Glenview History Center sponsor a Civil War Days fundraiser on Labor Day weekend.
Have you visited any Civil War battlefields?
Several. Last year we were at the 150th anniversary of the Chickamauga Battle in Georgia. In my research, I learned where my great-uncle Henrik was killed. We walked the same grounds, then had a toast to Henrik.