Civil War Reenactment was Quite a Spectacle

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Roel Godinez – Journalist Intern Mission Vista HS
On November 4th and 5th, the Antique Gas and Steam Museum hosted its Annual Civil War Reenactment for Civil War Reenactment Appreciation Week. A $5 parking and $10 entrance fee granted guests a live reenactment of a Civil War battle and a chance to explore the living history of the time period that was scattered about the museum grounds.

Event volunteers donned period clothing and were brimming with historical knowledge. While most were dressed in either Confederate or Union uniforms, some wore the civilian clothing of the late 1800s. The soldiers favored wool garments while the women wore long dresses with petticoats. In between battles, guests were encouraged to speak to the camp guards who were more than happy to answer questions and display relics from the war. Vendors sold replicas of swords, clothing, as well as other goods from that era. Food was also available for purchase, both food from the past and present.

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Photos by Roel Godinez

The battles themselves were quite a spectacle. These well executed performances took place at noon and at 3 p.m. on both days that the event was held. Each of which began with artillery demonstrations in which the union soldiers fired a cannon. While there were no projectiles fired, the blast itself rocked the crowd of nearby onlookers and brought cheers while the foul smelling smoke settled. With that, a bugle sounded and the armies gathered to fight. Small company units formed and marched in step to the steady rudiments of the drummers. Soon enough, rifles were cracking away, followed by the cries of the injured and the whoops of those still standing. Then the horses stole the show as they charged, riders brandishing pistols and flags as they confidently rode. Both sides welcomed more and more reinforcements, all following historically accurate formations and strategies, until one army eventually surrendered. Up until the point that the dead rose to return to their barracks, the immersion was unbroken upon the crowd. This reenactment truly captured the essence of America’s most brutal and impactful war.

Mark Rowan, who has been participating in the reenactments since it began in 1992, describes the process of joining the one battalions. “We basically just give you a uniform and send you out. Well there is some brief training so you know what our doing. The first time out you’re going to only fire the caps. We’re not going to have you pouring powder down until you really know how to hold the gun and what the spacing is between the people and things like that.”

“My son got involved in this,” another soldier said, “and the more I hung around the more I decided ‘hey, that’s pretty neat stuff.’”

Although the first reenactment in Vista took place in 1992, there have been re-creations performed as early as the end of the Civil War when veterans would gather to commemorate their fallen comrades. Today, we continue this practice to keep history alive, not just in writing, but in action.

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