Captain Lou Kaufer: #001
While Lou always had an affinity for Civil War history, he became enamored with reenacting on his visits to Gettysburg and Manasas in the late 1980s. In 1989, he met with members of the 7th NJ Headquarters at the Battle of Moncacy in Maryland. Finding a group based near his hometown of Middletown, NJ, he felt fate was pushing him to join. He attended his first meeting in 1990, and created a 2nd Lieutenant’s impression, his first several years in the hobby consisting of lectures at historical societies, churches, and schools. There were no battles, no big events, no real sense of what the average Civil War soldier went through during those gruesome five years. The 7th Headquarters were a hobbyist group only interested in sharing their stories and newest historical finds, but Lou wanted to change that.
When one of the founding members created a cavalry unit under the headquarters, Lou removed his lieutenant’s bars and became a cavalry private, but the unit didn’t have enough membership to march at any big events. As the Gettysburg anniversary approached, Lou decided to create a signal corps impression that got him a good spot during Gettysburg’s 130th. After seeing the infantry reenact on the field, he knew he needed to add an infantry impression to the 7th, and the creation of many different impressions under headquarters began.
In 1992, the organization had grown large enough to incorporate as a 501C3, but the factions were disjointed and disorganized, and a major falling out occurred, leaving only Lou and a few others to pick up the pieces. Lou realized that for the organization to survive it needed a distinctive structure, and he took it upon himself to draft a series of by-laws. He volunteered to run the new emerging organization, reincorporating the 501C3 as the 2nd New Jersey Brigade in 1996 to encompass all the impressions blossoming under headquarters.
During his presidency, the brigade boomed to 130 members, with a 15-person board of trustees incorporating delegates from each of the nine impressions. Due to his dedication and leadership, the 2nd NJ Brigade was the largest operating Civil War living history organization in the northeast by the early 2000s.
The Brigade sadly lost Captain Lou to cancer on May 29th, 2013, but the by-laws and organizational structure he created are still running the Brigade today, almost thirty years after his joining a six-member headquarters.
In his honor, we continue to move the Brigade forward, living his legacy to educate and keep alive the stories of those New Jersey soldiers and their families.
As the Medal of Merit has been created in Lou’s honor and memory, we award him the first honor, the first Medal of Merit recipient: #001.