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Dept Michigan
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Past Department Commander's Badge

Department of Michigan

Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

 

Bruce B. Butgereit

Department Commander 2002 - 2003

 

Bruce ButgereitBruce B. Butgereit, our 2002-2003 Department Commander, has taken his interest in the Civil War to heights he never imagined when he first learned of the war at the age of nine. Here is his story: In 1968, Walter E. Norris took his grandson Bruce B. Butgereit to visit the Battlefield of Antietam, just outside of Hagerstown, MD where the boy lived. Mr. Norris took pictures, told stories of the battle and stressed the importance of learning more about the Civil War; but not the reasons why. Shortly after this trip, Bruce read his first book, Rifles for Watie, a historical fiction book of the Civil War. From that moment on, the Civil War became the focus of Bruce’s free time. Consuming every book he could get his hands on, Bruce read and studied the war.

In 1975, Bruce gave his first “presentation” (a slide show of battlefields created by his grandfather Norris and two 1863 newspapers) on the Civil War to his East Kentwood High School history class. Since then, to use the old cliché, the rest is history – Civil War history!

After graduating in 1977, Bruce traveled to the eastern battlefields of Gettysburg, Harper’s Ferry, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and more. Having a desire to share his knowledge, and Bruce will be the first to tell you he doesn’t “know it all,” he began in 1979 offering to give his presentation to his sibling’s history classes and then to his children’s classes. Believing thathistory could be brought to life by wearing the clothes of a Civil War soldier, Bruce created his own “uniform,” which he now looks back on and can laugh at how far it was from accurate.

During this time, Bruce attended as many Civil War reenactments as he could. Finally, in 1996, he decided that it was time to cross over the yellow tape separating the battlefield from the spectators and start living the life he had studied so much of; he and his family of four children joined the Third Michigan Volunteer Infantry, Co. F Civil War reenactment group. By 1998, the Butgereit children, Bruce II, Bernadette, CallyAnn and Colin were also reenacting; Bernadette as Civil War nurse Annie Etheridge of the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Michigan Infantry.

It was in 1998 that Bruce teamed up with Marcia Bruin and other reenactors, to begin sharing a look at the history of the Civil War as Bruce B. Butgereit & Company – Civil War Presentations, an organization designed to present professional living history and educational programs. Realizing that very little was being shared on the lives and efforts of women with the public and the southern cause was not a popular subject in Michigan, they included information on North and South, Soldier and Civilian. Students of all ages have participated in other various programs at schools, museums, libraries, reenactments and other community events.

Then in 1999 that his grandfather Norris finally told Bruce why he should study the Civil War – he had two ancestors who had served in the war in Indiana regiments – Gashem Norris of the 6th Indiana and Lt. Col. Wesley W. Norris of the 43rd Indiana. This also meant that Bruce could join the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. That same year, Bruce became a member of the Gen. John A. Logan Camp No. 1 in Grand Rapids, MI. The same night he was initiated, he was appointed the Camp Patriotic Instructor. It was a busy 2000 when Bruce became a member of the Grand Rapids Civil War Roundtable and the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. He soon was elected as the Recorder for the Michigan Commandery of MOLLUS. Bruce & Company was also offering over 80 school programs a year in addition to reenacting, living history events, fashion shows, and more. Bruce was elected to the position of Secretary for the Gen. John A. Logan Camp No. 1 and assisted Keith Harrison in the planning and preparation of the Grand Rapids Ceremony of Remembrance held annually at the Veterans Home. When the need for a strictly educational reenacting group presented itself, Bruce formed the Third Michigan Volunteer Infantry, Co, K reenactment group.

On Memorial Day 2000, Bruce also spearheaded the effort to raise $250,000 for the complete restoration of the Kent County Civil War Monument and Fountain located in Grand Rapids. It was also the beginning of a wonderful friendship with “true son” Edward Blakely whose father had served in the 10th Michigan Cavalry at the age of 15 in 1863.

By 2001, Bruce was elected as Commander of Camp Gen. John A. Logan No. 1 and assisted the Department Secretary in organizing two new Camps in Alpena and Troy, MI as Department Senior Vice-Commander. Bruce & Company became the official “Michigan in the Civil War” program at the Public Museum of Grand Rapids. The Grand Rapids Civil War Roundtable also chose Bruce as the assistant coordinator.

2002 marks the 27th year that Bruce has shared those two 1863 newspapers of the Civil War with others. It is the year that he became the Commander of the Department of Michigan and the coordinator of the Grand Rapids Civil War Roundtable while remaining the Commander of Gen. John A. Logan Camp No. 1. On July 20, at the Civil War reenactment at Charlton Park in Hastings, MI, Bruce and Marcia were married in an authentic Civil War wedding with Ed Blakely as Bruce’s “best man.”

Bruce is not one to remain idle; while doing the work of the Order, he remains active in his children’s lives, their schooling and managing his own business (established in 1975), The Cleaning B’s (one of Grand Rapids’ oldest contract cleaning services). Through all of this, Bruce will be the first to tell you, “While my name may be the one out front, it is the hard work of my faithful friends that allows us to accomplish what we do.”

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  Last updated on June 26, 2005 3:15 PM - webmaster