News / USA

US Civil War Comes Alive 150 Years After First Battle

More than 6,500 people take part in Manassas re-enactment

The Manassas battle, staged twice during a recent weekend, is the first of several big reenactments planned to mark the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.
The Manassas battle, staged twice during a recent weekend, is the first of several big reenactments planned to mark the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.

Multimedia

Audio
Susan Logue

A century and a half after the first major battle of the U.S. Civil War, thousands of soldiers in 19th century uniforms once again faced each other across a field in Manassas, Virginia, 50 kilometers south of Washington.

Not even extreme heat was enough to keep the re-enactors from recreating a pivotal point in American history.

Recreating history

Long lines of soldiers marched across the field, white smoke filling the air as they aimed their muskets and fired. On one side, dressed mostly in blue, were the federal or Union troops. On the other, dressed mostly in grey, were the Confederates, from the southern states that had broken from the union.

These re-enactors are portraying Confederate soldiers from the old American South.
These re-enactors are portraying Confederate soldiers from the old American South.

“This is my duty and responsibility. I’m a Virginian and I think it is important to share and tell about the history,” says Robert Brown, 57. His ancestors were Confederate soldiers, and he feels he is representing them and what they fought for.

“This war was about political freedom, less government," Brown says. "They wanted to be out of the hands of the federal government."

He says soldiers on both sides, "fought for a cause they believed in. I’m sure it was hot back then, but they were willing to do that, because they believed in a cause they were willing to give their life for.”

Keven Pallett is also representing three members of his family who fought in the war.  And like them, he crossed the Atlantic from England to participate.

Even though Pallett’s ancestors were among the more than 50,000 Britons who fought for the Union, for this re-enactment Pallett is a Confederate soldier.

Arriving a day or two before the battle, the re-enactors set up camp in nearby fields, pitching white canvas tents.
Arriving a day or two before the battle, the re-enactors set up camp in nearby fields, pitching white canvas tents.

“If you want to re-enact, you join your local unit. The area that I live in, which is on the South Coast, there are just Confederate units so you join the local unit.”

Social gathering

Pallett, Brown and the thousands of other re-enactors arrived one or two days before the battle.

They set up camp in nearby fields, pitching white canvas tents, and making them as homey as possible, with chairs or camp stools, trunks and tables or just a bedroll to stretch out on at night.

Keven Pallett, preparing his musket for the battle, has participated in US Civil War re-enactments in England, but says they're much smaller in scale there.
Keven Pallett, preparing his musket for the battle, has participated in US Civil War re-enactments in England, but says they're much smaller in scale there.

For some, like 56-year-old Keith Murray, from Maryland, re-enacting is above all a social gathering. “It’s enjoyable, the camaraderie of meeting the guys from the unit and coming out and living the life of the 19th century. Some of the battles you can almost feel like you are there.”

Almost, but not quite. With high-tension electric wires in the background, more than 10,000 spectators on bleachers and a voice on the loudspeaker pointing out different aspects of the battle, it is clear that this is not the 19th century.  

And with few people willing to lie on the ground to simulate the dead and wounded, even the simulation of casualties is gone from this reenactment.

Pivotal battle

In July 1861, more than 60,000 troops fought at Manassas. Nearly 5,000 died in this first major land battle of the war, which resulted in a Confederate victory.

“It is often referred to as the end of innocence,” says Ed Clark, superintendant of Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Although re-enactors work hard to be authentic to the period, there are some things, like electric wires, that they cannot control.
Although re-enactors work hard to be authentic to the period, there are some things, like electric wires, that they cannot control.

“Manassas really changed the way the country looked at what was in front of them. Prior to first Manassas, both sides thought it would be quick and relatively bloodless, and what occurred down here on the plains of Manassas really woke the country up.”

For the re-enactment, more than 6500 people took part, even though it meant braving searing heat. While Clark understands that a lot of people connect to Civil War history through re-enactments, he fears they don’t get a complete picture of the war.

“They really don’t show the horrors of warfare.  Also, re-enactments portray a one-dimensional view of what is going on.  There is so much more going on at the time of the Civil War, way beyond the battlefield, the home front, experiences of different immigrant groups and African Americans that aren’t played out in reenactments.”

The Manassas battle, staged twice over the weekend, was the first of several big re-enactments planned for the next four years to mark the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Many of those who came for this one, will be at those as well.  

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid