March 26, 2013

ON CAMPUS: Civil War re-enactment has its own history

Bit of nostalgia seeps in while watching Civil War re-enactment in Knights Ferry.

Covering the Civil War re-enactment in Knights Ferry gave watchers a sense of walking back in time as a nation. But for me, it brought a bit of personal history back to life as well.

Twenty-plus years ago, we brought our two oldest – then 4 and 8 – to another re-enactment. Not knowing the schedule, we blundered in just as the Union and Confederate forces were gathering for battle.

Two parents, a preschooler by the hand and pushing our young wheelchair rider, ambling across the bridge, right into the middle of the battle. When we realized our peril, we gathered the girls in our arms and scrambled up the hill ahead and slightly to the right to be out of the way.

Unfortunately, we’d sat squarely in front of the cannons about to fire from the opposing bank. Yells quickly confirmed our poor choice of battlefront seating and we grabbed them up again and hustled stage left, over to where a smattering of other watchers sat waiting.

With the clueless tourists out of the way, serious killing could begin. The battle raged.

A close-fought encounter ensued just out of the mouth of the bridge, right where we had first fled up the hill. Smack in the center of it was a child’s little red chair with big knobby wheels.

“Look at that!” “There’s a wheelchair in the battle!” fellow watchers shouted and pointed. We sat quietly, pink cheeked, staring at our modern intrusion into such picturesque history.

But the soldiers took it in stride. Never breaking character, one ducked down behind the chair and fired peeking over the chair's arm.

That day, the soldiers outnumbered the watchers. But on Saturday, the roughly 300 re-enactors marched, aimed, shot, died and miraculously recovered before probably four times as many onlookers.

No little red wheelchairs saw action that day.

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