Collection dates back to civil war

By Isabelle Schultz

Driven by an interest in historical military equipment and weaponry, Milan’s Ken Baumann has acquired a remarkable collection that reaches back to the Civil War.
This storehouse of American history is found in two modest buildings located off Milan’s West Main Street.
Displayed among the muskets and heavy equipment is a rare caisson that was used to haul ammunition by men on horseback during the Civil War, while close by rests a World War II Dodge truck weapons carrier. A Civil War cannon that shoots blank cartridges is loaned annually from the collection for Memorial Day activities at Marble Park Cemetery. Baumann noted that among his most prized possession is a letter signed by Abraham Lincoln. Acquired at a Civil War show, this exceptional and rare piece of American history is not exhibited.
However, another unusual and unique item is a spike from the railroad built by Japanese prisoners of war in Burma during World War II. The spike was a gift from Milan’s Doris Falk whose husband, George, was captured when the island of Java fell to the Japanese. Falk, a U.S Army Private, was enslaved in a work force of thousands of Allied prisoners forced by the Japanese to build the infamous railroad through Thailand and Cambodia.
Military uniforms from World War I and World War II as well as the Spanish American War are displayed as are souvenir items from battle ground countries England, Japan, France and Germany. He noted some of the uniforms in the collection were donated by former servicemen from the Milan area.
Baumann attributes his enthusiasm and interest in military memorabilia to the multitude of military parades he viewed while growing up in Chicago near the end World War II.
“Collecting is my way of honoring the citizen soldier who made America what it is today,” he said as he viewed the hundreds of items he has acquired.
A recognized authority, Baumann has written magazine articles on military memorabilia and published a book on Civil War weapons. He has served as president of the Ann Arbor Civil War Round Table, participated in Greenfield Village’s annual Fourth of July Salute to America, helped supervise Remembrance Enactments in Springfield Illinois and participated in the establishment of the Springfield National Guard Museum. He recently noted, “A Facebook page is in the works.”
Although the museum is not regularly open to the general public, tours may be arranged by contacting Baumann.

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