The Civil War, a sesquicentennial reenactment.


One hundred and fifty years ago today shots rang out at Fort Sumter in South Carolina to launch the Civil War. Historically, that’s one of the only facts not hotly debated when it comes to Civil War history. Over the next four years, there will be a flurry of more publicized Civil War commemoration activities. After all, for Civil War buffs, re-enactments especially are nothing new. It’s been a robust hobby for decades actually. For the next four years, we will mark the sesquicentennial at scores of crossroads whose names have become a bitter historical shorthand: Fort Sumter, which launched the war on April 12, 1861, and later Antietam, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and so many others, all the way to Appomattox. We’ll reflect on more than 600,000 combatants who died, we’ll debate the causes, we’ll talk about slavery’s legacy. Remembering sometimes is a way of forgetting, an occasion to bring former foes together to shake hands. Nostalgia for the so-called Lost Cause of the antebellum South define many observances — even at the Civil War centennial in the early 1960s. Recently the Civil War came to my small town of Winchendon Massachusetts, many were called to arms form our small town but the war never touched our town directly as it did Antietam, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and so many others. So I was fascinated to see what it was all about. I had never been to a Civil War Reenactment before, ( I don’t remember hearing of any Civil War battlefields in North Central Massachusetts) but having grown up in New England I assumed it would be like any of the Revolutionary War Reenactments i’ve been to in and around Concord and Lincoln. Too many tourists to really get an idea of what was going on. I figured there would be a dozen or so tents and some ragtag group marching around like we did as boys with our fathers WW2 helmets and toy guns. Boy was I wrong, there were three separate camps of over 1000 participants in full period battle dress, Confederate, Union, and a camp followers town with general store and food tents. Over a two day period there were mock battles and camp life on display. It was a spectacular opportunity to see first hand what life was like in those camps (although a more sanitized version). Here are some of the photos I took those two days of reenactment in the small New England town of Winchendon Massachusetts called the Battle of Murdock Farm. (click on the images for a larger view.)

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