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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.