A Civil War documentary to be screened at the Coon Rapids Civic Center Thursday, May 16, 6:30 p.m., has a Coon Rapids connection.
The executive producer of the film “From Wasioja to Washington” is Coon Rapids native Richard Oxley.
Oxley will be at the May 16 screening to answer questions at the end of the 56-minute film, which is being presented by the Anoka County Historical Society, Coon Rapids Historical Commission and Hennepin Technical College.
The film tells the story of the men and boys from Wasioja and Dodge County that joined up with the Union Army and left their small, southeastern Minnesota community to muster at Fort Snelling as Company C of the Second Minnesota.
Most of these men were recruited from Northwestern Seminary College.
The film follows the men and boys through the Battle of Mill Springs, the Battle of Chickamauga, the march to Atlanta and the march to the sea with Gen. Sherman, the routing of South Carolina to the grand march at war’s end.
According to Oxley, who is video production instructor at Hennepin Technical College, student Samuel Henderson came up with the idea for the documentary by capturing Civil War re-enactment footage in Wasioja in June 2011.
“As the adviser with the video production club, Media Storm, we try to create two or three extra curricular video projects a year,” Oxley wrote in an email interview.
But this project turned into two documentaries after club members and Oxley did research about the small town and its relevance to Minnesota Civil War history, he wrote.
One documentary was about the annual Wasioja Civil War Days event and the other was about the men and boys of Wasioja and their involvement in the 2nd Minnesota Company C, according to Oxley.
“We based that documentary on the book, ‘The Boys of Wasioja’ by Michael Eckers,” Oxley wrote in his email response to questions.
Planning for the Wasioja documentary started in April 2011 and the video production club members shot the Wasioja Civil War Days event in June 2011, completing editing on the “From Wasioja to Washington” documentary in April 2012.
Eleven students and three faculty traveled to Wasioja, which is 20 miles west of Rochester, for the filming and nine editors completed the editing and the Blue Ray/DVD creation, according to Oxley.
Henderson was the director and along with his role as executive producer, Oxley also wrote the script with Andi Johnson.
As part of the documentary, Eckers gives his personal insight to this Minnesota Civil War story, while University of Minnesota History Professor Paul Stone tells of the struggles a Minnesota company would face during this time in America history.
Both documentaries were shot at the Wasioja Civil War days, according to Oxley.
For the “From Wasioja to Washington” documentary, Civil War re-enactors at the Civil War Days event were used, not actors, Oxley wrote.
“We did shoot part of the 2nd Minnesota infantry unit for some dramatizations, both at Fort Snelling and at the event,” he wrote.
But the rest of the documentary was shot during re-enactment battles at Wasioja Days Civil War Days, according to Oxley.
“The purpose of the movie is to tell a little-known story,” Oxley wrote.
“Wasioja has the only still standing Civil War recruiting station west of the Mississippi and it also has the ruins of the Northwestern Baptist Seminary which was the third college in the state of Minnesota.”
The documentary was released April 26, 2012. The first screening took place at the college that month, then it was shown in Kasson in May 2012.
“Both were well attended with over 400 people at each event,” Oxley wrote.
Hennepin Technical College has partnered with the Friends of Wasioja to create and sell the DVDs with the sale proceeds going to the Friends of Wasioja to help fund the Wasioja Civil War Days event June 15-16, 2013.
According to Oxley, Hennepin Technical College will have another crew of 12 students, three faculty and two alumni filming the event this year to produce a new DVD.
Oxley graduated from Coon Rapids High School in 1978 where he played tennis on the high school team, then graduated from North Hennepin Community College in 1980 and qualified for the junior college national tennis tournament that year as well.
He attended St. Cloud State University from where he graduated in 1983 with a bachelor of science degree in mass communications with a special emphasis on television production and a minor in coaching.
Following graduation, he worked for Storer Cable in Fridley, then for the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District for nine years as a video producer as well as coaching girls’ basketball at North St. Paul and girls’ and boys’ tennis at Mounds View High School.
Oxley went on to work for Minnegasco, now CenterPoint Energy, for some five years as a video producer before moving to his current position at Hennepin Technical College.
According to Oxley, he is currently doing research for a documentary that tells a little known story about the Jesse James bank robbery in Northfield.
“I’m not interested in telling the Jesse James story and the attempted bank robbery – that’s been done,” Oxley wrote in the email.
“It’s a story of what happened after they left Northfield and how they survived before they split up and were arrested in Madelia.”
If it works out, the project will be completed in about a year, Oxley wrote.
Seating is limited at the Coon Rapids Civic Center for the screening of “From Wasioja to Washington” and free tickets are available from the Anoka County History Center, 2135 Third Ave. N. in Anoka or by calling 763-421-0600.
If the event sells out, arrangements will be made for a second screening in June, according to Todd Mahon, historical society executive director.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]