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Staff photo by Sam Pearson
Confederate soldiers prepare for an upcoming battle at their camp at Calico Ghost Town.

Civil War buffs do battle, educate visitors

YERMO • Union and Confederate troops fought at Calico Ghost Town this weekend, meeting for two times a day to exchange gun and cannon fire.

The annual Presidents Day weekend event is put on by the American Civil War Society, a Southern California-based Civil War reenactment group. The event has been held at Calico Ghost Town since 1994.

About 300 actors participate in the reenactment, Event Coordinator Noelle Wayne said.

At Sunday morning’s battle, Union and Confederate troops squared off at the Silver Bowl, an ampitheater area of the town. Muskets and cannon fire rang out as commanders barked orders at soldiers.

The most devoted participants brave the cold by spending the night in authentic Civil War-era tents, said Michelle Akkerman, membership coordinator for the American Civil War Society. Union and Confederate soldiers camp on separate ends of the town. (Less adventurous participants camp at the ghost town’s campground or in recreational vehicles.)

Akkerman, an eighth grade history teacher in the Lake Elsinore Unified School District, said her time spent at Civil War reenactments helps her give her students a more thorough understanding of the Civil War.

Akkerman said she has been involved with reenactments for about 10 years and became membership director last year. The event had already attracted about 20 new membership applications, Akkerman said.

David Grimsrud, president of the American Civil War Society, said most people who visit Civil War reenactments do not realize the full extent of the battles. The events are spectacles with extensive noise and choreographed marching, Grimsrud said.

The soldiers determine in advance who will die in the battle, and which side will win, Akkerman said.

Grimsrud, who has been involved with the organization for eight years, said he did not typically particpate in battles anymore because it was too physically strenuous.

“War is a young man’s game,” Grimsrud said.

For Union soldier Ryan O’Connell, getting involved in Civil War reenactments helped him better understand the war.

“It put a face on it, rather than just a map of red and blue arrows,” said O’Connell.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or spearson@desertdispatch.com

 

Calico Ghost Town Civil War reenactment
Where: Calico Ghost Town, 33600 Ghost Town Rd., in Yermo, off the Ghost Town Road exist of Interstate 15, 10 miles north of Barstow.
When: Monday is the last day of the event. It runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
How much: Admission is $10 per car.
On the web: www.calicotown.com


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