Stepping Back in Time….

(Photo: Melissa Kania)

Allow me to take you back in time to the early 1860s – the time of the American Civil War between the Union and the Confederates. Can you imagine what life was like during that time? How the soldiers – and civilians – dressed, ate, acted and lived? On July 14, I had the pleasure of attending the sesquentennial Civil War reenactment at the Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford, NY.

My aunt and I arrived at the museum – which is just about an hour away from Buffalo – around 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, just before it opened. We were able to get a good parking spot, very close to the main entrance and not in the DIRECT sunlight, which was good because boy – it was flipping hot.

Almost as soon as we entered, we saw the first batch of troops, near the meadow. We were almost instantly hooked as we watched them listen to commands, do rifle drills, march and sit around in the meadow which seemed to be a sort of ‘camp’ for them (though their tents were elsewhere, for the record.) We also saw the cavalry ride through, which was pretty neat, albeit short.

After visiting a couple of the buildings in the village, including an old general store where they sell delicious rosewater currant cookies and Baptist and Catholic churches, we took our spot in the lineup to watch the 11:30 a.m. battle demonstration. We heard the troops from both sides approaching, as they came from opposite directions and played appropriate music and demonstrated their shooting tactics. They basically met in the meadow in front of us, and it was really awe-inspiring. At one point during the roughly hour-long battle, the zouaves from one side were about two feet in front of me, shooting the other side.

By this time, it was almost 12:30, so my aunt and I got lunch at a garden restaurant in the village. It was definitely nice to get out of the sun for a bit – though we did have some shade for the first battle – and sit and just relax for a bit. We both certainly felt refreshed afterward, and then went back to the Baptist church for a fashion show!

Unfortunately, we missed most of the show, although I did see the women giving an example of all the layers a woman in that time would wear, including the corsets and dress and parasol and fan. They also showed what a widow would look like, in all black and possibly wearing a veil, too. My aunt managed to connect with an old friend who she hadn’t seen in 20+ years, so that was really nice.

We stopped by the home of a doctor (Bacchus, I think?) before visiting the boyhood home of George Eastman. We also saw the camps of both the Union and Confederate troops set up, as well as some of the troops sitting around, doing drills, etc.

Just before 2 p.m., we made it to the South Field for the afternoon battle. Before we found a seat, we watched the troops march in. I managed to get a front-row seat while my aunt sat a bit further back in some shade. The afternoon battle was more elaborate – it was in a large, open field and featured cannons and cavalry as well as the other features of the regular battle. It was honestly amazing, and so REAL. At one point, prisoners of war were standing right in front of me. It was just…. wow. Breathtaking.

We watched the troops from both sides march out of the battlefield – to the appropriate solemn music, marching in union, uniforms and all. Then, we visited the gift shop and then left the Village. It had been an extremely hot and sunny day and we did a lot of walking, so exhaustion hit us pretty hard.

We stayed at the Genesee Country Inn (a bed and breakfast) and went to the Avon Inn for dinner, which was nice. It was a lovely trip and honestly, I enjoyed the reenactment WAY more than I expected to. It was surreal, being there and experiencing that, allowing you to really imagine what life would have been like at that time. Also imagining life during the war, and the Civil War itself, was amazing.

As one of my friends said, it’s things like this reenactment that make history come alive – when you realize that these were real people actually doing these things. It’s amazing, and I think I’ve become hooked from just that one experience. I’ve already began looking at other reenactments and I’m planning on attending both the Revolutionary War and Civil War weekends happening locally in a few months. I also want to do more reading up on history and such – I always liked it in school, even if I didn’t do so great on the tests. It’s all so very interesting and if I can really delve into it and be able to ENJOY it, I can really get more into it.

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