The sights, sounds, smells and feel of the Civil War, with marching, musket firing, music, cooking and stories around a campfire, will all be part of the living history event Labor Day weekend at Sunken Road and Marye’s Heights.
Fredericksburg Battlefield Park Ranger Peter Maugle said re-enactors will be on hand to help people understand what life was like for a Civil War soldier.
Rather than talk about battle strategy, tactics and statistics, Union and Confederate re-enactors will be talking about what it was like to be away from home and family, what soldiers ate, what equipment they carried and where they slept, Maugle said.
“People can come and learn quite a bit because these folks, with their uniforms, with their equipment and what they bring to the table—it’s really kind of unique,” Maugle said. “The whole idea is to give people an idea of what a camp might have been like and to engage their senses.”
The free event will include musket firings on Saturday at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Musket firing with the smoke, smell of gunpowder and noise will impart a notion of what it was like to fight in the Civil War. “Even though it’s smoke and noise with no projectile, it still gives a pretty good impression of what it would have been like,” he said.
Maugle promised that the re-enactors will know quite a bit about a wide range of topics and will be ready to chat.
“They know a lot about what they’re doing, so they can answer questions from the public about all sorts of things,” Maugle said. “Basically, anything and everything about soldiers—these guys have to know because people ask those types of questions.”
Visitors will be able to learn about Civil War uniforms, the materials they were made of and why they looked the same for both sides and differed only in color. They will also learn why Civil War fighters stood in groups and fired at each other across open fields, Maugle said.
Some of the tactics had to do with communications.
“Part of it had to do with technology. Without modern communications, the commander has to be able to see the soldiers and the soldiers have to be able to hear the commander,” Maugle said.
Visitors will see what Civil War soldiers had to carry when they were on the move.
“They had to have the things necessary to do their jobs, which would include a rifle, a cartridge box with their ammunition, a cap pouch, a bayonet scabbard,” Maugle said. “They needed to have a canteen, a haversack, which is sort of like a ration sack, a knapsack and a blanket roll.”
“A Sense of History,” which will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, will bring visitors and re-enactors together around a campfire where they will talk about the the life of a soldier.
“We talk about the feel of a soldier going into battle,” Maugle said. “We’ll have some music. We’ll tell some stories.” He said visitors can make a day of it.
“It’s not just a one-and-done thing,” Maugle said. “It’s not just show up, see them shoot a rifle and go home. You can spend a good chunk of time here.”
Maugle said the event’s location will also add to the experience.
“The key is that we’re going to be on the actual ground where these events occurred, which is always kind of neat. It’s not like we’re in some generic field or park somewhere. This is where it all happened,” Maugle said.