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This article by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July
15, 1998. All rights reserved.
Civil War Reenactment
The legions of volunteers to America’s involvement in
Civil War history continue to grow visibly. At this year’s mammoth
135th anniversary observance at Gettysburg, the battle was fought
by some 15,000 volunteers (with only one serious headwound incurred).
While the number of troops was comparable to the 1863 original, the
35,000 spectators and three news helicopters were new to our century.
"The confederate line was over a mile long. They had 70 cannons
going off simultaneously," says Vincent Mercandetti, president
of the Hamilton-based Camp Olden Civil War Roundtable, who was there.
Mercandetti is now readying troops for the seventh annual Camp Olden
Civil War Reenactment, Saturday and Sunday, July 18 and 19, at
Park in Hamilton Township. Each year reenactors encamp here just two
miles from the original Camp Olden, where 9,000 men were trained in
1861. Mercandetti says this year’s reenactment will be the state’s
largest, since the Battle of Monmouth event was canceled by its host,
the National Park Service, due to a 1997 injury and lawsuit.
At Veterans Park hundreds of reenactors will recreate the first
clash between Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General
Robert E. Lee in the Battle of the Wilderness. The fight for Saunders
Field begins Saturday, July 18, at 2 p.m. On Sunday, July 19, at 2
p.m. a reenactment begins of Longstreet’s Confederate counterattack.
Camps open at 10 a.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday, with the popular
candlelight tour of the camps beginning Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Food,
refreshments, souvenirs, and gifts are available from merchants in
period dress. The Civil War and Native American Museum will be open
extended hours on both days.
The popularity of historical fiction, non-fiction, and movies,
the re-release of "Gone With the Wind," offer ample evidence
that interest in Civil War history is growing steadily. "It’s
fascinating," says Mercandetti. "The romance of the Civil
War is one element, but so is the sacrifice and the enormous
With 620,000 killed, that would be the equivalent of 5 million dead
"It was the last romantic war — at least at the beginning
— one where they still used Napoleonic tactics," he continues.
"You had cavaliers in feathered hats on horseback. Plus you had
telegraph, railroads, and submarines. But by the end of the war, when
the men understood the killing power of the weapons they held, they
began to entrench. So consequently it also foreshadows World War
Mercandetti is confident that the popularity of reenactments is a
response to Americans’ respect for history. "Part of it is a
to find out who we are and where we come from."
At a screening of "Gone With the Wind" on Fourth of July
Mercandetti says he was surprised to find the theater packed, with
many 20 and 30-year-olds. "When I heard them laugh at Rhett
lines, it made me realize they were hearing it for the first time.
And towards the end, there was audible, uncontrolled sobbing all
the theater. And there was applause at the end."
Mercandetti says he considers the Camp Olden encampment the most
part of the weekend. "One of the beauties of our reenactment is
the Saturday night candlelight tour," he says. "We light
to make a path through the encampment. Veterans Park looks like
People go into the camps and get involved with the reenactors and
their characters who are going about their chores, playing games,
and singing songs. It’s a learning experience.
"No amount of videos, computer time, or websites can duplicate
the smell of the campfire, the sense of banging a drum with a stick
or listening to the reenactors’ tales."
Township, 609-275-0143. Camps open at 10 a.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.
Sunday. Parking is available on the west entrance on
Square Road. Free. Saturday and Sunday, July 18-19.
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