History In The Making
● By Anonymous
story: Melissa Mendonca
CIVIL WAR DAYS IN RED BLUFF
A scar in our nation’s history once famously known for tearing families apart is now bringing them together. Civil War reenactments have been gaining popularity since the mid 1990s, and they have found a large following in the North State. Many families who enjoy camping and learning together at the meticulously researched, period-correct shows which are often multiple day events. The last weekend in April will bring the sixth annual “Civil War Days: Clash at Dog Island” to Red Bluff’s Samuel Ayers Park, commonly known as Dog Island Park.
“It’s not about reliving the war,” says Sharon Roberts, a re-enactor from Los Molinos. “It’s about reliving an era in our nation’s history.” Roberts, who has found a niche sewing period-correct outfits for friends and family, fell in love with the process while joining her husband, Roe, on his first reenactment. As she walked through the campgrounds, people tipped their hats to her and said, “good day” and “good morning.” She was quickly taken in by those old-fashioned manners. Today, she enjoys researching the fine details of the era’s fashion and serves in the civilian unit of the Reenactors of the American Civil War, the North State-based nonprofit group that organizes four area reenactments a year. An avid quilter, she brings an old quilt frame and quilts with her to demonstrate what some women did during the war.
Mark Richardson, co-coordinator of this year’s Red Bluff event, loves historical reenacting because “instead of reading it in a book, you get to walk through it and really explore it.” Reenacting attracts people with an absolute passion for history “and a few frustrated actors, a few hams,” he laughs.
The attention to detail and nuance to create accurate living history impressions makes the Friday education day for area schoolchildren a rare opportunity to watch history come to life. Around 800 students will tour the Civil War camp at Dog Island Park and be transported back to a day free from modern conveniences and language.
Dog Island Park is a favorite venue for Civil War reenacting because it is easy to access from anywhere in the North State, yet a world away from the sights and sounds of modern living. The mature trees camouflage noise from nearby Interstate 5 and create a scene much like one found on a real Virginia battleground.
While California was never a battle site of the Civil War, many left the state to take part, serving as soldiers or ministering to medical or spiritual needs of soldiers. Reenactors bring all of these aspects to their impressions. Roe Roberts thinks he will portray a civilian in a refugee town at this year’s event so he can show hardships suffered through displacement of war. He will carry a postage stamp from the era and a piece of brick from his great grandfather’s tomb, just as soldiers tended to carry a small memento from home as they set out to war. While Roberts grew up in California, he is from New Orleans and spent summers there with his grandfather, who talked about the Civil War as if it happened yesterday.
Richardson will take on the persona of Captain Isaac L. Chadwick, a 1st Captain of Company C in the 72nd New York Infantry. About half of the New York Unit of the local nonprofit take on the personas of real soldiers, bringing a deeper sense of realism to their impressions.
All are welcome at Red Bluff Civil War Days. A warning to history buffs: attendance may induce a need to don era outfits and share your knowledge through reenactment. •
Red Bluff Civil War Days April 24-25; Education day for schoolchildren, April 23 Samuel Ayers-Dog Island Park Main Street, Downtown Red Bluff www.72ndnewyork.org Camps open 9am-5pm Battles Saturday at 12 pm and 3 pm, Sunday at 11 am and 2 pm $5 admission at gate; children 10 and under $1.