Friday, July 22, 2011

Commemorating the Civil War After 150 Years in 100+ Degrees

This weekend marks the 150th anniversary of the first major battle of the Civil War, the Battle of First Bull Run or to Confederate sympathizers, the Battle of First Manassas. Union and Confederate reenactors, Civil War enthusiasts, historians and the curious from around the country are braving the record-breaking heatwave to commemorate the occasion.

Since my brother and cousin happen to be in town, we couldn't resist braving the heat and checking it out, either. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, it's surreal to be in such close proximity to the actual locations we've read about in our history classes, let alone to witness the time period, itself, in such a three-dimensional way.

To say it was "hot" is an understatement. At 9:15am, the temperatures were already at 87 degrees Fahrenheit. Thankfully, there were air-conditioned shuttles to take us around the sites. Sharon, a very kind volunteer, gave us a wonderful orientation of the area as we rode to downtown to watch the beginning of the parade. Her family had lived in the area for five generations and her perspective on the "War of the Northern Aggression" was pretty eye-opening to those us who've grown up with a more Yankee education. One of the docents on board, emphasized the importance of the "truth" in our education system, and had we had more time and known a bit more Civil War facts, we might have pressed on his definition of the truth.  

Union Soldiers battling the heat for the Reenactors Parade
(Photo credit: Ben Domingo)
About 1200 marchers (soldiers and civilians) were expected in the parade, but we saw maybe 120 from our perspective in downtown Manassas. I suspect many just had to avoid the heat, and given the oppressive uniforms and costumes, I don't blame them. My family and I were barely coping in our own light clothing, umbrellas and free-flowing bottles of water.

Interviewing a Civil War private about
how he got involved in reenacting
(Photo credit: Ben Domingo)

We also walked around Camp Manassas where vendors and reenactors set up authentic-looking tents to sell their wares or expound their knowledge. One camp acted -- er, served as the Undertaker and educated anyone who would listen about the history of embalming and burials of soldiers back in the day.

Wish I could say, "been there, done that," but I'm really curious about the reenactment of the actual battle taking place at 9:30am this Saturday and Sunday. If there's one thing inspiring about these soldiers, if they can battle the heat now and 150 years ago, so can I.

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