CORRY, Pa. (Erie News Now) — Northwestern Pennsylvania was home to many fascinating figures in U.S. history, including Colonel Strong Vincent. Wouldn’t it be great to go back in time and talk to guys like him?
It’s not possible but Tom Hansen provides the next best thing. He dresses up as Vincent for educational and special events. Tom knows practically everything about the Civil War hero from Erie County. He makes it a point to look like the colonel, right down to the Civil War mutton chops.
“I’ve actually been asked by kids, ‘Are those real?’ And I pull on them and I go, ‘Yes they are.” And they go, ‘Wow!’ says Tom.
Tom became a Civil War re-enactor around the year 2003. He also spoke to groups about the Civil War and spent much of those presentations focused on Strong Vincent. Local Civil War buffs eventually urged him to ‘become’ Strong Vincent. Tom recalls the conversation.
“A friend goes, ‘You know, nobody portrays him quite right or has the look. You have the look.”
Tom joined me in the Heritage Room of the Blasco Library dressed as Strong Vincent. I quickly envisioned myself in a conversation with the famous colonel. I have to ask, ‘What was it like at Little Round Top with Confederate troops closing in?’
“You hear the screams. You see the smoke of all the guns going off. You smell the acrid smell of all the black powder going off. You hear the cries of soldiers being wounded,” said Tom as Colonel Vincent.
Vincent broke the chain of command at Gettysburg and took it upon himself to organize the various Union regiments to retain that hill. Vincent was then wounded by a bullet that entered both his legs. He died five days later. I had to ask, ’What’s it like to be a Civil War legend?’
“I just know that if I lived or if I died, I was doing my duty for the country. The country came first to me,” said Tom as Colonel Vincent.
Strong Vincent was made a brigadier general while on his deathbed to honor his service at Little Round Top. He is now buried at Erie Cemetery. A ceremony will be held at the cemetery in July to mark the 160th anniversary of his death on the battlefield. Tom will be there.