Sunday, March 2, 2014

Travelogue: Civil War Re-Enactment, Part 1

Event: Civil War Re-Enactment
Date: Sunday, February 16, 2014
Location: Calico Ghost Town

Introduction: In Case You Didn't Have Enough to Read

As those close to me know, I'm something of a history-buff-in-training.  My passion runs deep, but my knowledge runs shallow.  That's why I was so excited about the Civil War Re-Enactment taking place at Calico Ghost Town during President's Day Weekend.  Any excuse to soak up random facets of history from experts more knowledgable than I.
Experts on Parade
 Those close to me also know that when I start to write, I tend to get... how shall I put this... Verbose?  Profuse?  Long-winded?  Point is, brevity is not my friend.  When typing up my notes, I found this entry totaled over 3,500 words--a full 13 pages!  And that's too much, even for me.  So to break up the monotony, I decided to split this blog into 8 different sections, which I'll be posting once a day for the rest of the week. The sections are:
  • Historical Inaccuracies
  • Guns
  • A Soldier's Pack
  • Battle of the Ruins
  • Intermission
  • Grant's Press Conference
  • Battle of the Schoolhouse 
  • The Meaning of the Civil War
Most of it's in chronological order, but I do reserve the right to skip around in order to make it more interesting.

Flags!  Just because!
Now when I moseyed around Calico, I didn't have with me any of that fancy recording equipment, no ma'am.  Paper and pencil was good enough for my ancestors, and it was good enough for me.  Please note, then, that the quotes are not exact.  I'm relying on memory and the smudged lead scrawled on my notebook.  Also on wikipedia and a couple of reference books.

Hope it's educational.  :)

* * *

Historical Inaccuracies

No major battle of the Civil War was ever fought in California.  Let's just get that out of the way.

This is not to say that California played no role in the Civil War.  It's gold kept the Union from going bankrupt.  Its over 15,000 volunteers saw action in both Eastern theatre and Western frontier, most notably when a California regiment soundly whipped some Texas Confederates in the Battle of Picacho Pass.  Within the state, skirmishes broke out between Northern and Southern sympathizers. Los Angeles was a hotbed of secessionists.

Calico Ghost Town
  Even so, it's safe to say no such battle ever happened in Calico.  Founded in 1881--20 years after the Civil War--Calico came about due to a silver strike in the desert hills just outside of Barstow.  Much of the silver still remains--it just became too expensive to extract.  Without money, the town decayed.  But then, in the 1950s, Walter Knott (of Knott's Berry Farm fame) took an interest in Calico and revived it as a tourist attraction.

So, to sum up, no, this is not an exact re-enactment.

At this moment, however, I don't care about.  I'm wandering up main street, gazing at the old West buildings now festooned with red, white, and blue banners.  (Festooned!  How often do I get to use that word!)  The usual crowd of cowboys and prairie wives are replaced by soldiers and southern belles.  Sepia fliers call for recruits.  One flier offers a bounty for the capture of John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's murderer--even though, Lincoln is looking very alive right now, talking to a surgeon in the Union Camp.

Banners festoon the ghost town
  Interestingly enough, the Union camp occupies the base of the hill, what's known as southern Calico, while the rebels pitch their tents in the high ground near the schoolhouse in northern Calico.  Oh dear, I think to myself.  This isn't a good sign.

I peek into the Union camp with its white tents and star-spangled banners.  Blue-uniformed soldiers mill around, chatting with each other, and a little boy plays the flute.  Many of the tents are shut, but when a wind blows one open, I spy modern equipment--an ice chest and the like.  Do they actually camp here? I wonder.  The general store hints that perhaps they do.  In addition to barrels of old-timey candy and souvenir pencil sharpeners, they're selling baking powder and camping supplies.

The Union Camp
In these opening moments, I'm too shy to talk to anyone.  I'm afraid that if I open my mouth, all my giddy fangirl-ness will come pouring out, and these costumed men will look at me like I'm strange.  Slowly, however, I'm gaining nerve.  I see a display of guns which looks educational and make a break for it.

Ah ha, I think.  Here's my excuse to ask strangers questions about history.

I shuffle around the riffles, waiting for someone to acknowledge me.

But Lincoln's Not Dead Yet!
* * *

To Be Continued...

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