LAWRENCE — A tombstone at the Bellevue Cemetery tells the story of John Kendall Norwood, one of the city’s honored Civil War soldiers.
“Wounded at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863 and carried ball until death,” reads the inscription about Norwood, who came home to become a prominent business man and lived to be 77 years old while carrying inside him the bullet that pierced his right lung during the historic battle.
Norwood and close to 100 other Lawrencians who fought at Gettysburg — including six who were killed in action or later died from their wounds — will be the focus of the 11th annual Civil War Weekend being hosted by the Lawrence Civil War Memorial Guard. More than two dozen Civil War re-enactors from Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Maryland are expected to participate in the two-day event that begins on the Campagnone Common tomorrow.
This year’s program also features a showing of the popular 1989 Civil War movie “Glory,” which can be viewed on the common at 7 p.m. tomorrow. The movie dramatizes the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first all-African American U.S. Army unit during the Civil War, which was led by its white commanding officer Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. In the event of inclement weather, the movie will be moved inside of City Hall.
The annual event draws a regional audience of people interested in the Civil War history, particularly local aspects. But its organizers also include activities for children: a children’s muster and games at 1 p.m. tomorrow and a children’s pie eating contest at 2 p.m. Sunday — both on the common, which will resemble a Civil War campground for “Union soldiers” who will be part of a living history display over the weekend.
As in past years, local visitors will be able to check and see whether they had an ancestor from Lawrence who served in the Civil War or who was buried in one of the local cemeteries, according to Elizabeth Charlton, vice president of the Lawrence Civil War Memorial Guard. Information desks inside City Hall and on the common will provide public access to a collection of military records and other information about Lawrence soldiers.
There will also be an exhibit on display inside City Hall about Norword and the other Lawrencians who fought at Gettysburg, a local 150th commemoration of the famous battle of July 1-3, 1863.
“Gettysburg was the pivotal battle and Lawrence was right in the thick of it,” said Larry West, the guard’s president.
“Of the regiments who fought at Gettysburg, we have identified slightly under 100 Lawrence men who were at the battle. Of those who were at Gettysburg, there were 13 casualties — six of them died of their wounds or were killed in action. Between Union and Confederates, there were over 160,000 soldiers who were present — about 70,000 were Confederates. Total casualties were close to 50,000 for both sides — those who were killed, wounded and missing or captured.
Norwood was a cannoneer with the 9th Massachusetts battery and saw combat for the first time when they arrived at Gettysburg, according to West, who will talk about the Gettysburg soldiers during the weekend. Norwood worked in the dry goods business before enlisting in August of 1962.
“The battery didn’t have any infantry support, so they pulled back to the Trostle Farm,” West said.
“They were essentially ordered to be sacrificed, to hold their position until a new line could be formed 300 yards behind them. Eventually, they were overrun and they lost all but two of their guns, which they pulled out by hand. John Norwood was shot in the lung and was captured,” West said.
The Confederates allowed one of his battery mates to remain with him.
But because of his medical condition, Norwood was a prisoner for only a short time.
“The Confederates retreated and just left him there. Eventually, he got him some medical treatment. Because the Minie ball was in his lung, the doctors couldn’t remove it. That was the end of his soldiering career,” West said.
“He was discharged in February of 1864. After the war, he started a successful insurance business in Lawrence and it lasted well into the 20th century,” he said.
“Years later when they were installing monuments in Gettysburg for all the units that fought there, he was the guy that was instrumental in getting them in the right places for the 9th Massachusetts battery’s different positions. He was elected president of the Association of 9th Mass Battery Volunteers,” he said.
Civil War Weekend is event is hosted by the Lawrence Civil War Memorial Guard, in partnership with the City of Lawrence, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Merrimack Valley businesses. This event is free to the public.