Civil War re-enactors clash at Renfrew Park

August 12, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Union re-enactors fire weapons Sunday during a mock Civil War battle at Renfrew Park in Waynesboro, Pa.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — In what was called “a good day for dying,” re-enactors descended Sunday afternoon on the meadow at Renfrew Park for a generic Civil War battle.

The mild temperatures and scattered clouds proved advantageous. Organizer Don Biesecker said when a re-enactor “dies” on a hot day, it can be unbearable to lie face up with the summer sun overhead.

“It’s a good day for dying,” Biesecker said of the weather.

Biesecker has been at the helm of the weekend encampment held at Renfrew Park for the past 22 of its 34 years. Because he is retiring from the position, his group — the 139th Regiment of Pennsylvania volunteers — gave him a battle flag.

“After we unfurled the new one, they presented me with the old one,” Biesecker said.

A battle in which the Confederates surprised the Union soldiers capped off the weekend.

Conner Godfrey, 8, excitedly yelled “My dad is holding the flag!” and “My dad is waving the flag!” during the battle.

His father, Stephen Godfrey, carried the Confederate flag on behalf of a Tennessee-oriented unit.

Conner “loves going out and doing this,” said Stephen Godfrey, of Strasburg, Va.

Waynesboro resident Tara Gardner works in Gettysburg, Pa., and is familiar with the crowds and fast pace of events there. She said she appreciated the low-key atmosphere at Renfrew Park as her family walked around tents used by the 100 living historians.

“It’s more relaxed and cozier” than Gettysburg, she said.

Scot Gardner said he was happy to visit on a day that was not as hot as some.
“Anytime you can witness living history, you should do it,” he said.

Friends Julia Suchanek, 16, and Kylie Wilson, 17, encountered the event as they were searching for turtles in the stream.

“We just saw the camp and came up to see this,” Kylie said of the battle.
Julia expects to be participating in battlefield preservation and re-enactments in the coming year.

“My senior project (at Waynesboro Area Senior High School) is going to be about the Battle of Monterey Pass, so I’m really enjoying this,” she said. “I think this is awesome.”

Ashton Bradley, of Seaford, Del., has participated in the encampment for four years and said she is always sad when packing up.

“It’s a real family atmosphere. It’s a really relaxed event,” she said.
“You kind of relive history when you’re out here,” said Sarah Lake, a living historian from Pine Barrens, N.J.

When spending time at the encampment, it could be easy to forget the year is 2012, Bradley said.

“It’s a great way to respect history and keep it alive,” she said.

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