Alliance surgeon makes Civil War history live

ALLIANCE- New patients to Dr. David Mungo’s office in Alliance would be forgiven if startled by the Civil War amputation kit and leg bone from the Battle of Gettysburg in the display case not exactly reassuring images in your orthopedic surgeon’s waiting room.

But the artifacts aren’t there to frighten, only to educate. And for Mungo, an orthopedic surgeon and Civil War enthusiast, it’s all about education.

It’s why he volunteers to spend his weekends being someone else a second lieutenant in the 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, a Civil War reenactment group all for the sake of telling stories and illuminating the past.

Reenacting is a great way to educate, he says.

“You have to see, hear and smell it,” Mungo says. “The more senses you can involve, the more people will remember.”

The fact that he gets to ride Buddy, his Saddlebred horse of nine years, into the chaos of battle with sabers rattling, pistols firing and cannons booming, is an added bonus. It’s a unique adrenaline rush, he says.

“It sounds cliche, but training and instinct take over when things get crazy,” Mungo says. “Riding quickly to the sound of the guns will get anyone fired up.”

Life in the cavalry is not without its dangers. Having an orthopedic surgeon around can be useful. Ankle and rotator cuff injuries are common and because of the tight formation the unit must keep in battle, knees are often squeezed, too. Some of his fellow cavalrymen have ended up his patients.

Mungo’s passion for the Civil War started after seeing his first reenactment outside of Rochester, N.Y., where he was attending medical school. After opening his practice in Alliance in 2000, he hooked up with a confederate unit as an infantryman. Two years later, he married his love of horses with his deep interest in the Civil War and joined the 6th Ohio Cavalry.

Reenactments frequently take Mungo out of town on weekends spring through fall. The largest reenactment in Ohio takes place every August at Hale Farm and Village (HFV) in Bath Township. The cavalry has been part of HFV’s Civil War weekend for years, drawing crowds fascinated by the horses marching in formation and galloping into battle.

“Each year, the reenactors have different and exciting ideas for Civil War weekend. People will need to visit Hale Farm in August to see what they’ve come up with for this year,” says Jason Klein, HFV site manager.

This May the 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry and the Army of Ohio, another local reenactment group, will be honored at HFV’s annual signature event, the Legacy Award Benefit. Benefit attendees will get an up-close look at the units in camp and practicing drills in the field.

At nearly 80 members, the 6th Ohio is one of the largest mounted cavalry units in the country. It is respected for its high degree of authenticity and historical knowledge of cavalry drill, tactics and dress so much so that members come from as far away as Vermont, Wyoming and Arizona to ride with them.

Mungo plays a major role in recruitment and retention of members.

“Dave is one of our key guys in helping us retain our veterans. He’s so likeable and conscientious. People just enjoy being around him,” says Mike Church, commander of the 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry.

As for recruitment, reenactments provide the ultimate job advertisement.

“Hale Farm gives us exposure as a unit,” says Church. Every year, the unit will get six or seven recruits from the Civil War weekend crowds, he says.

New recruits frequently ask Mungo if it’s okay to join the unit with an inexperienced horse.

“I tell them, ‘great, that’s pretty authentic,’” Mungo says. During the war, Northern horses were work horses, not pleasure horses, and were not used to being ridden, Mungo explains. Many times, horse and rider had less than a week of training before heading into battle.

The first step in training doesn’t involve the horse. Instead the unit trains the rider on the ground to do what the horse will be expected to do later. The next step is basic riding with the other troopers, keeping the new horses next to the experienced ones, explains Mungo.

“We keep the green horses surrounded by the veterans when we start shooting around them, too. We can usually desensitize a good, new horse in a weekend or two,” he says.

“Horses are herd animals. If a new horse sees the other horses around him are calm, then he’s thinking I don’t need to worry about this either,” explains Church.

Each reenactor looks for different qualities in a horse. “I wanted big and fast, others look for short and slow depending on their own personal aggressiveness,” says Mungo. The units require solid color horses for authenticity reasons and try to discourage certain breeds that were not around or used in the original cavalry.

Mungo’s extensive knowledge of Civil War history and his amiable personality make him a natural for speaking in front of crowds of people or a small group of kids, says Church.

“Dave is an excellent presenter and really makes history come alive,” he says.

For his part, Mungo says he’s not hoping to inspire people to become expert historians as much as he hopes he’s motivating them to go and learn about history on their own.

The 6th Ohio takes their mission of educating seriously. That’s why receiving the Legacy Award is such an honor for the group, says Church.

“Hale Farm is about history and education. That they would think we’ve helped them in their mission in some small way, that’s a very big deal,” says Church. “We couldn’t do enough to pay them back for their recognition of our efforts.”

Hale Farm’s Legacy Award Benefit will take place May 17 and will honor the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War and the efforts of the Civil War reenactors of the Army of the Ohio and the 6th Ohio Cavalry. Tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased online at

Hale Farm & Village is located at 2686 Oak Hill Rd., Bath, OH, on 90 acres, with 32 historic structures, farm animals, heritage gardens, food preparation and early-American craft and trade demonstrations, including glassblowing, blacksmithing, broom making and home crafts.

Peggy Sexton is a volunteer for the WRHS Communications Department and can be reached at