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August 1864. Petersburg, Virginia. "Essayons Dramatic Club, a group of the U.S. Engineer Battalion." From photos of the main Eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg. Wet plate glass negative, photographer unknown. View full size.
From the Army Corps of Engineers Web site: For more than a century the Corps of Engineers had its own drama club. The Essayons Dramatic Club, one of the oldest amateur theatrical production companies in the U.S., was founded Jan. 27, 1864 by the Engineer Battalion, then serving with the Army of the Potomac and wintering at Brandy Station, Va. The battalion built a small theater and organized an orchestra, and Feb. 26 the troupe presented "Toodles," its first play.