Monday, May 17, 2010

The Civil War Comes Alive!

I just finished a weekend of Civil War reenacting up at Sacramento’s Gibson Ranch. If you’ve never been to one of these NCWA (National Civil War Association) reenactments, picture a town full of Yankees, Rebs, and Civilians decked out in 1860s costume with people portraying actual historical characters from the Civil War. Union and Confederate encampments full of period reenactors take to the battlefield twice a day to put on an authentic reproduction of an actual battle for the public. If you’ve never been I strongly suggest you checkout one of these living history days that take place around the state throughout the spring, summer, and fall. I serve in the northern army, but you can come and take part as a soldier or civilian from the North or South, or simply enjoy the spectacle as one of thousands of spectators in the public audience.

I do these reenactments because it’s a great opportunity to not only study history, but to really “live” it, so to speak. It’s one thing to read about the American Civil War, but it’s something else entirely to stand beside roaring cannon, rattling muskets, and smell the air thick with black gunpowder. People really make an effort to portray their roles accurately, wearing replica uniforms, actually carrying 1860s-type muskets, and bunking in Civil War era encampments. We even eat the same era food rations! My unit, the 71st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, is but one of the many Civil War regiments that actually had soldiers from California serving in their ranks during the war.

I’ve found Civil War reenacting to be an invaluable experience with regards to researching and writing my newest book, The Long Defeat. As a Civil War era novel, I include many of my own first-hand experiences in the lives of the characters in my story, both North and South. It’s really helped me to add a more personal, human element to the text, providing authentic content where the traditional history books leave off. Reenacting continues to inspire me and provides me with the opportunity to meet a variety of great people from all walks of life. If you are interested in seeing the NCWA in action, checkout our next event in July at Duncan Mills. You can learn more at the NCWA official website or just ping me directly for more information.