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History comes to life at Civil War re-enactment

August 09, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Gun powder dissipated in the air Sunday as Civil War re-enactors stripped off heavy pouches and sweat-drenched jackets following a "battle" witnessed by about 50 spectators.

J. Walter Callis and Sharon Drost waited in the Confederate camp for their comrades to return. Their tents and belongings were set up on the lower lawn of Renfrew Park, which has hosted the weekend encampment for 29 years.

"It's a beautiful place. All the people we've met are very nice," said Callis, who, like Drost, was visiting Renfrew for the first time.

Re-enactors said spectators have interesting questions when they visit encampments. Queries include "Are the uniforms hot?," "Is the fire real?" and "Do you sleep in that tent?"

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The answers are all "yes," of course.

"Sadly, most Americans have no clue about their own history," Kim Drapkin said.

School curriculum for the Civil War is inaccurate and covered too quickly, Drapkin said. The war was fought over "the politics of the economy of cotton," she said.

"You'll get the history right from the encampments," Richard Rhine said.

"History is very boring until it becomes live like this. ... It makes it real for kids," Drapkin said.

"Basically we're living history," Callis said.

The group, based in the Reisterstown, Md., area, said it was pleased with Sunday's battle.

"It went perfectly as planned," Tom Carmine said.

Event organizer Don Biesecker, who camped on the Union side, said Saturday's battle traditionally mimics a famous one, while Sunday's is more generic.

The encampment's first year featured eight cavalrymen, Biesecker said, but it's now grown to 250 re-enactors plus artillery.

Biesecker, of Waynesboro, is already thinking about how to best mark the 30th anniversary of the event.

"We want to have an evening dance," he said.

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