What IS Right With America? Teaching Young Americans About Battles That Secured Our Liberty
What an incredible weekend! I had an opportunity to observe a reenactment of the Civil War Spring Campaigns of 1863 in which the Union Army of the Potomac battled the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. The battle was reenacted by members of the Southern California Civil War Association, and it was held at Prado Regional Park in Chino, CA. It was the tenth anniversary of the event and proceeds from it were donated to the Abe Simpson Eagle Scout Scholarship Foundation. Along with the re-enactors themselves, Prado Regional Park had so many scout troops camping out that I thought I was at a jamboree. My eighth grade daughter and I went to observe one day of the event, and what an experience we had.
Having never been to a battle reenactment, I was not prepared for what I was about to witness. The Association boasts approximately 400 re-enactors and civilians. While most were dressed as troops or in period costumes, there were re-enactors who could be mistaken for notable figures such as President Lincoln or General Grant. I spoke with the re-enactor who portrayed Ulysses Grant. He told me that his striking resemblance to the eighteenth president had changed his life. In order to command the role of the Union general, he studied Grant’s life in detail. He did so in order to remain in character when interacting with spectators. He now takes part in re-enactments, and he is often hired to visit schools and extracurricular youth groups as well. Aside from the famous figures, there were troops divided into cavalry, artillery, and infantry brigades. There were also “civilians” who were dressed in period garb. While we were there, we not only watched a battle re-enactment, but we also saw a wedding, a fashion show, branch level drills, and a field hospital demonstration. The attached image is of the Confederate and Union Cavalries battling it out during the battle re-enactment.
However, by far the most impressive aspect of the event was the knowledge base of the re-enactors themselves. Armed with a two page extra credit questionnaire from my daughter’s U.S. history class, we set out to find what I thought was a list of obscure bits of information. What amazed me was the depth and breadth of information held by so many of the individuals we spoke to. Not only could they respond to the questions my daughter brought from school, but some of them were almost like a living history book. For example, a re-enactor who portrayed a member of the 10th New York Zoaves Infantry told me in detail about his life as a member of the infantry and then went into specific detail the special style of fighting the Zoaves emulated, as well as the meaning of his colorful uniform. Another soldier told me his unit was paid a lofty amount of $26 per day (as opposed to the $1 paid to members of other units) because the men in the unit were basically trained assassins who preferred to kill those who they captured. Yet another individual, who portrayed a physician in the Union Army, went into great detail about suture material used by physicians of the Union and Confederate armies. Who knew that horse hair was used to close wounds? I took copious notes, and by the end of our adventure there was very little unfilled space on either page. I heard from several re-enactors that Britain hoped the Confederate army would be victorious, and the United States would be forever torn apart. Many people who depicted Confederate soldiers told me the war was just as much caused by the issue of states’ rights as it was about slavery. When I researched that topic at home, I found that people continue to argue about which issue was truly at the heart of the conflict.
If you have never witnessed a battle re-enactment, I would highly recommend it. It is truly an educational experience for both adults and children. My daughter, who is very much a conservative, said she learned a great deal about the issues which prompted the Civil War. She also commented that she had a new appreciation medical technology she took for granted after learning how limbs were amputated in the field! For those of you interested in watching a civil war reenactment, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg will be honored from July 4 through July 7th. The website related to the event can be visited at: http://www.gettysburgreenactment.com/
There are a number of organizations relating to re-enactments of battles fought during the American Revolution. I have listed them on this page of my website: http://www.bingoforpatriots.com/conservatives-engage-2012/american-founding-living-history-and-reenactments/
If you have participated in a reenactment of any battle, be it of the Revolutionary War, Civil War, or any other conflict, I would love to hear your story! Please share it with me and others!!
P.S. Thanks to all of you for your patience with my spotty blogging these past two weeks. Several family issues cropped up that had to be dealt with. Things have settled down, and I will be back to blogging almost daily from here on out!