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Re-enactment is relaxed at Renfrew

August 10, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, PA. - The worst of the fake fighting was over, of that much Confederate Commander Lt. Col. Curtis Utz was certain.

As he leaned back in his chair to enjoy a cigar in the safety of the Rebel camp on Saturday afternoon, an edge still remained in his eye.

Night was soon to fall and Utz knew his men would face empty fire from Union guns under the cover of darkness.

After all, that was the way it usually happened at Renfrew and after 10 years re-enacting the battles of the Civil War on the meticulously groomed lawn of the historical museum and park, he did not expect less from the Yankees camped across the creek.

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As his men brought word from Union Pvt. Donnie Biesecker, orchestrator of the re-enactment and encampment, that they would be fired upon from across the field at nightfall, Utz, a Naval historian, had but one word to say.

"OK," he said.

The Renfrew Civil War Encampment might be one of the smaller re-enactments staged across southern Pennsylvania each year, but the chance to relax and live as a common soldier would have lived between skirmishes was a welcome change for the re-enactors.

To those in uniform and hoop skirts, re-creating American history is addictive.

Ashley Hoffman acquired her first period dress a few years back to try re-enacting and living history. Now that she is one of the women who portray the Maryland Ladies Aid Commission, she considers herself hooked.

But it is an addiction that comes at a grave price.

Gordon Grahe, Captain of the 7th Tennessee, Company A reminds his men of that price before each event.

"Remember one thing," he told his men. "In order for us to have this good time today, over 650,000 men had to die."

Reenactment is as much for the men and women in uniform as it is for the people wearing T-shirts and sunglasses who observe from a distance, said Grahe, a professor of Civil War history at Anne Arundel Community College.

Biesecker, a retired machine operator, said the smallness of the event welcomes visitors to mingle with the re-enactors, ask questions and engage in conversations that foster knowledge of history.

"Here we can re-enact battles, but then kick back and enjoy ourselves," he said. "We can be ourselves and still do a good job."

That is because the re-enactors portray no one special, but rather average soldiers and officers, Utz said.

The Renfrew Civil War Encampment began Saturday with re-enactment of the Battle of Bull Run at Henry Hill and continues today with the re-enactment of a general battle.

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