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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

Veterans

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

titanic

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,

including

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

causalities.

With 620,000 killed, that would be the equivalent of 5 million dead

today.

"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

I."

Mercandetti is confident that the popularity of reenactments is a

response to Americans’ respect for history. "Part of it is a

thirst

to find out who we are and where we come from."

At a screening of "Gone With the Wind" on Fourth of July

weekend,

Mercandetti says he was surprised to find the theater packed, with

many 20 and 30-year-olds. "When I heard them laugh at Rhett

Butler’s

lines, it made me realize they were hearing it for the first time.

And towards the end, there was audible, uncontrolled sobbing all

through

the theater. And there was applause at the end."

Mercandetti says he considers the Camp Olden encampment the most

valuable

part of the weekend. "One of the beauties of our reenactment is

the Saturday night candlelight tour," he says. "We light

candles

to make a path through the encampment. Veterans Park looks like

Disneyworld.

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."

Camp Olden Civil War Reenactment, Veterans Park, Hamilton

Township, 609-275-0143. Camps open at 10 a.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.

Sunday. Parking is available on the west entrance on

Whitehorse-Hamilton

Square Road. Free. Saturday and Sunday, July 18-19.


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