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Port Gamble plays host to Civil War reenactment
PORT GAMBLE— Gun smoke and calls for battle charges filled the air of Port Gamble this weekend as the town was taken back in time to the 19th century Civil War skirmishes for the American right: freedom.
More than 400 people belonging to the Washington Civil War Association came out to reenact the earlier days of muskets, bayonets and cannons with the hopes of their flag reigning over the battlefield at the end of the day.
“The North won in the morning so the South is supposed to win tonight,” said Captain Bob Lindon, coming off the battlefield on Saturday. “But if you leave your flank exposed or get caught with empty weapons you leave yourself open. There are all kinds of things playing into it.”
Lindon, who trekked from Bellingham, portrayed a 1st Regiment Confederate Engineer and said he initially became interested in the reenactment because of his blood roots to Don Carlos Bluell, a General in the Wilderness Campaign, he said proudly.
“The Civil War is interesting to almost everyone,” he said. “Something about it just strikes a passion.”
That passion is shared by generations of both genders.
Women on the field either fought bound to a male persona or tended to the “wounded” as vivandier, or nurse.
Kids, too, participated in the weekend camp out. Much like the honored children who risked their lives to fight in the war, modern day youngsters couldn’t wait to test their skills on the battlefield.
“Kids were put in the front lines,” said Cadet Captain Riley, aka Jessica Ingram, of the recreated 15th Alabama, a family-geared unit.
Ingram started participating in the reenactments when she was 5 years old and is now Captain of a children’s army modeled after the Battle of New Market in Virginia. Cadets younger than 18 years old from the Virginia Military Institute fought on the front lines in May 1864, retaining Shenandoah Valley for the Confederates. The novice cadets fought alongside the veterans, Ingram said. However, 10 out of more than 250 cadets who fought were killed in the battle.
The battle wasn’t the only attraction to onlookers.
Mike Childers, who works as a horseshoer in Arlington, demonstrated how 19th century blacksmiths created cannons with forged iron.
After “two years and a lot of cussing,” he built his own, modeled after an 1862 Blakely.
“They were British made and imported by the confederates,” he said.
Downhill in the Yankee’s Union camp soldiers Tony Monson from Bothell and Jason Miller from Edmonds rested alongside their skillet of pickled pork ration and hard tack.
“Soldiers’ life on the march was very difficult,” Monson said. “For the most the typical private soldier was on the move everyday and only actually fought two or three days out of the year. They were walking the rest of time.”
While encroaching on the South, Union soldiers would march upwards of 10 miles a day and often would push on during the night, he said.
“It was very dirty and rough. Half were sick at all times and had a disease of some form or another,” he said. “They would read the same month-old newspaper from home over and over to keep sane from deserting. Peer pressure is what kept them — the thought of ‘what would they think if I left.’”
For modern day Civil War soldiers there was no fear of desertion until Sunday night when reenactors packed out, but not before commemorating the American Civil War and the men who died for freedom.