Saturday, September 11th, 2010
By William Kincaid
Re-enactors spark Civil War interest
FORT RECOVERY - As students got off the bus at Ambassador Park on Friday morning they soon realized the Yankee and Confederate re-enactors' commitment to character and historical accuracy.
Dressed in period garb, several re-enactors showed about 2,000 students from Ohio and Indiana various aspects of Civil War life - military decorum, basic march and fight formations, artillery warfare, blacksmith work, etc.
"It's awesome - what a way to get the kids engaged in hands-on experiences," St. Henry middle school guidance counselor Dianne Hart said.
Instructors at the stations were authentically dressed and enjoyed what they were doing, she added.
The march of one group of students was interspersed with the barking commands of an officer, telling them to stay in formation and prevent gaps.
St. Henry middle school history teacher Mike Eyink liked how the re-enactors stayed in character, pointing out that some students laughed when they were given commands but soon fell in line.
"I think it's super," he said about the day, which fits in with the eighth-grade curriculum and may spark interest for the forthcoming Washington, D.C., trip.
Two Confederate reenactors refused to allow the newspaper through encampment, as they demanded to know the password and paperwork.
Their commanding officer said anyone with at least four teeth - the amount required for an infantryman to prepare gunfire - should know better.
"I think it's pretty interesting," said Landon Schlater, an eighth-grade student at Coldwater schools.
His classmates liked the re-enactors, calling them "very intimidating" but amusing.
As students traveled to different stations, the bellowing boom of an artillery cannon - heard and felt throughout the 52-acre park - invariably elicited girlish screams.
Celina High School teacher Bill Sell said his school's Civl War and freshman history class students attended the event, including a former student, 30-year-old Andy Enyart of New Haven, Ind.
"I love history and I love being able to teach it to anyone willing to learn," Enyart, a re-enactor of 1st Tennessee Company B, said.
Enyart was attending his eighth or ninth event of the year so far.
"The camaraderie is a big part of it," he said.
Usually, officers of both sides agree upon a loosely scripted scenario for each re-enactment, but that can take unexpected turns, depending on how the men react to certain situations, he said.
"It's like a chess game," he said.
Joel Bell traveled from Fort Wayne to participate as a re-enactor at Fort Recovery this weekend.
Bell said that re-enactments allow students to know the full story about the Civil War.
"In my opinion correct history is not being taught in school," he said, explaining that the narrative is tilted toward the northern perspective.
The primary reason for the war was issues over states' rights, not slavery, he said, adding that too often the war is seen as having a winner and a loser.
"The nation as a whole pretty much lost," he said.
As of Tuesday, over 600 Civil War re-enactors from as far away as Colorado and Florida preregistered for the three-day event.
Event co-organizer William Collins said organizers are expecting about 800 re-enactors, in addition to horses, cannons, vintage baseball players and throngs of spectators.
Two major battle re-enactments will be held Saturday and Sunday.
Forty acres have been designated as the battlefield and organizers created fences, mounds and barricades to enhance the war simulation.
Confederate and Union soldiers - dressed in period uniforms - will battle for each other's territory, including the park's bridge.
Spectators will be able to observe the battles from bleachers, and a shuttle service will be available for transportation to various events.
Admission each day is $5 for adults and free for children 8 years old and younger.
Spectators can gain access to the park by the entrance near state Route 49 by the Ambassador Depot or by the Fort Site Street between the village's forts and museum.
For more information, go online at www.fortpull.com.
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