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Family gains perspective from reenactment

While spectators gather to watch the proceedings of The Civil War Revisited, actors run around preparing for battles, speeches and basic camp life, Oct. 2-3. They play every role from cavalrymen to seamstresses, and spend all weekend making sure that the events run smoothly and that every spectator leaves with a new perspective on the Civil War.

Senior Megan Stewart and her brother Ryan, ’14, are two of the many actors that put on the reenactment each year at Kearney Park.

As second-year actors, Megan and Ryan looked forward to participating in the reenactment this year. They get the chance to learn about the historical happenings hands-on and experience the life of a family during wartime.

Megan plays the part of a young woman who waits for her Confederate relatives to return from battle. While her brother and father are fighting out on the field, she utilizes her talent for calligraphy to write them letters from the desk outside of her family’s soldier tent.

“It’s really fun when people ask you questions,” Megan said. “Not only do you get to teach others about the people of the Civil War, but you get a glimpse through their eyes as well. That way, you get a factual and personal perspective.”

As she labors away at her letters and looks anxiously at the battlefield, spectators watch her and learn more about the people of the Civil War from her actions.

Ryan, on the other hand, actively participates in the battles. Toward the rear of the Confederate Army, he works in constant motion to load, light and fire real cannons into the oncoming Union soldiers.

“Firing the cannon is one of my favorite parts,” Ryan said. “My job is to pick and prime: I poke a hole in the powder, put a fuse in it and light it. I like the powerful feeling of lighting it.”

While the idea of lighting a cannon may seem like a simple task, merely watching Ryan and his companions sweating over their tasks proves otherwise. Every man assigned to the cannons has a specific job, like an assembly line. In order for everything to run smoothly and strategically, every man must do his part.

When the battles are finished and the soldiers are able to return to camp, Megan and Ryan often wander through the now smoky campsites and watch the various presentations. Whether it’s a heart-wrenching speech from Sojourner Truth or a medic curing a wailing patient, they claim there is always something new and fascinating to see.

As evening falls, the festivities of camp night begin. The reenactment visitors all gather on haystacks in front of a stage to watch various performers and feast on hot, fresh food, while the actors all eat together at their camps.

At this time, Megan and Ryan meet up with their father, an artillery soldier, and their mother to share a meal straight from an authentic Dutch oven. The camp bustles with activity as costumed figures light the candles on their wooden tables, clear off the remaining hardpan biscuits (a soldier staple made of flour, salt and water) and settle down for a night of fun.

“I love camp night, and I also love watching how people cook with the Dutch ovens over the fire,” Megan said. “The food tastes so good. Last year, someone even made pie in it.”

While daytime events center around history, camp night offers the chance for both visitors and actors to bond with family members and new friends.

“The reenactment gives me time to spend with my dad, and that’s what makes it special to me,” Ryan said.

When mealtime comes to a close, the Civil War reenactment finishes off the night with a booming cannon fire, a colorful fireworks show and an 18th-century-style dance.

Parents Richard (Rick) and Katherine view participation in the reenactment as a unique experience for Megan and Ryan to bond as a family and try a new activity.

“My favorite part is watching Rick and Ryan working together to light the cannons,” Katherine said. “Ryan is so excited and smiles the whole time. Being involved in something like this develops character.”

For more information on the reenactment, read the Oct. 1 article, Civil War Revisited to portray American history, or call the Fresno Historical Society at 559.401.0862.

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    Brandon McCormickSep 7, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Keep up the hard work. It’s fun watching you from the stands. Love you man/