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American Civil War

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The American Civil War, also known as the War between the States or simply the Civil War, was a war fought from 1861 to 1865 between the United States (the "Union" or the "North") and several Southern states that had declared their secession and formed the Confederate States of America (the "Confederacy" or the "South"). The war had its origin in the fractious issue of slavery, and, after four years of bloody combat, the Confederacy was defeated, slavery was abolished, and the difficult Reconstruction process of restoring unity and guaranteeing rights to the freed slaves began.

There were many magicians around during the years of the Civil War.[1]

James H. Sharp

A.M. Wilson Andrew G. Waring Canada Bill Jones George W. Stock Homer S. Woodworth Harry G. Cooke Jim De Barr Henry Brown John A. Stock James Tully Kelsey

Magicians who served

  • Fred Bearns - joined the 14th New York State Militia during the Civil War. He was captured and held prisoner in Richmond Va. After the war he used the billing, "Returned Prisoner of War from Richmond, with his Most Charming Experiments in Magic and Ventriloquism".
  • Samri S. Baldwin - During the Civil War he joined the Ohio 83rd Infantry Regiment, Company B. He was the drummerboy for the regiment. After the war was over in 1865, Samri Baldwin began his performing career. He would continue to perform until his death on March 10th, 1924.

  • Gus Rich (1833-1917) - A tinsmith by trade, he gave his first performance of a magical nature to a large audience at the Ole Salem Concert Hall just before war broke out in 1860. When the Civil War started Rich became the drummer in a 26th North Carolina Regimental Band part of the Confederate Army. When not with the 26th Regiment he and his fellow band members put on performances to raise money for the confederate troops. Rich performed as "The Southern Magician". On April 8th, 1865, the 26th North Carolina Regimental Band was captured and imprisoned, but to their surprise they were released the following day. General Lee had surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox ending the Civil War. Gus Rich returned to his hometown of Salem, North Carolina adopting the moniker "The Wizard of the Blue Ridge" and continued to perform magic until 1914. The Wizard of the Blue Ridge still lives on today in a special magical tribute written by Max Howard called "The War Wizard". [2]
  • Horatio Green Cooke- A teacher, an inventor, a carnival showman, magician, and escape artist, he served in the Union Army. Cooke was part of the 28th Regiment, Iowa Infantry. In 1862 the second year of the Civil War, Cooke, going by the name Harry, enlisted in the Union Army. He went from being a private in the Union Army to being selected to be one of Lincoln's Federal Scouts. In 1863, he fell under the command of Major General Ulysses S. Grant during the Siege of Vicksburg. On May 1st, 1864, Harry Cooke was ordered to appear before Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War in Washington D.C. When he arrived he found that along with Stanton, was General William Tecumseh Sherman, General Hancock, Robert Ingersoll and President Abraham Lincoln. They had heard of the young scouts unusual ability to free himself from restraints and were curious. So he was tied up with fifty feet of rope. After he was securely tied, Cooke asked Lincoln to walk ten feet away. Then he asked him to return and before Lincoln got back, Cooke had freed himself from the confinement. In the Fall of 1864, Harry was assigned to join General Sheridan in Winchester VA. On October 19th, Harry Cooke and six other scouts were captured by Mosby's Raiders under the command of 'The Grey Ghost', John Singleton Mosby. When his band of raiders captured Harry Cooke and his fellow scouts they took from them all their possessions. In Cooke's pocket was a personal letter from Lincoln appointing him to the position of Federal Scout. In Mosby's eyes Cooke was a spy and was sentenced to be hanged along with his other scouts. They were to get an early morning hanging, but their final evening on earth would be spent tied to a tree. Being the escape artist that he was, Cooke quietly freed himself from the ropes, and then proceeded to free his fellow prisoners and return back to the Union side under the cover of darkness. The prisoners split up on their return and three swam across the Potomac and the others made their way through the woods. Only two of the scouts made it back safely, and Cooke was one of the two. Cooke was in the audience, as John Wilkes Booth shot the President and then jumped to the stage and out the back doors of Fords Theatre. Harry Cooke did not perform during the war, except for the rope escape demonstration before President Lincoln and his friends. After the Civil War ended Horatio Green Cooke became "Professor Harry Cooke" and worked as a professional magician and 'Celebrated King of the Spirit Exposers". [3]

Magicians who performed

  • The Fakir of Ava, moved to America and was quite a successful performer during the Civil War.
  • Robert Heller - worked as a magician and musician prior to the Civil War. Around 1861, as the Civil War started, Heller began to get back into magic. By 1864 he opened on Broadway with a hit show called "Sallie Diabolpue".
  • John Henry Anderson (1814 – 1874) - Touring for Anderson was good up to the start of the Civil War, but as the tour progressed he began to feel the effects of the conflict between the states. As business was drying up all over the eastern U.S., Anderson arrived in Richmond to discovered he was not welcome. The Virginians did not take kindly to his posters proclaiming the arrival of "The Great Wizard of the NORTH". War broke out shortly after his visit to Richmond. He tried to continue but it was a loosing proposition, even when he took the tour westward. As a last ditch effort Anderson returned to New York City and hired an author to write a version of Shakespeare's TEMPEST but with an emphasis on pro-Northern ideals. He called this play "The Wizards Tempest", hoping to win over the Northern audiences. At first it appeared he had a huge hit on his hands, but with news that the war was not going well for the Union it seriously hurt business. After a few weeks the show was closed and Anderson found himself in debt. He worked out arrangements to repay his debts and went to England, leaving his family behind. [4]
  • Compars Herrmann (1816-1887) - In 1861, he came to America and began to perform in New Orleans. As the Civil War broke out Herrmann headed north to New York were he began to set attendance records. During his stay in Washington D.C., Compars Herrmann was invited to perform at the White House for President Abraham Lincoln and his invited guests. Compars Herrmann's assistant during this engagement was his 18 year old younger brother Alexander. Together they presented their Second Sight routine. Compars performed throughout the Northern States during the Civil War and in 1863 he left America and headed to England and didn't come back to America until 1869, after the Civil War had ended.[5]

  • Signor Blitz - His home town of Philadelphia became the principal depot for the sick and wounded during the War. Because of this, Blitz donated his services many times to the soldiers. Blitz presented 132 shows before 63,000 soldiers. [6]
  • John Wyman - performed as Wyman The Wizard and had the honor of performing for President Abraham Lincoln four times. Prior to the war he was a popular attraction in the Southern States and even out west on Mississippi River Boats. During the war, Wyman lived on 6th St in Washington D.C. for a period of time and his regular performance spot was at The Odd Fellows Hall located at 419 7th St N.W Washington.[7]

  • Davenport Brothers - April 1861 while in Chicago , the brothers were conducting a seance, when a voice was heard coming from a spirit trumpet. This spirit voice declared a military conflict was taking place off the coast of South Carolina at Fort Sumter between the North and the South. This is a time long before mass media and news traveled slow. Yet somehow this 'spirit' seemed to know what was taking place half way across the country. The Davenport's spirit guides revealed the start of the Civil War before the actual news of the event arrived by telegraph. The Davenport Brothers continued to tour the Northern States during the War but departed for England in 1864.


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