Sunday, March 9, 2014

Travelogue: Civil War Re-Enactment, Part 8

The Meaning of the Civil War

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

The little train chug-chugs into Calico station.  We are off on one final ride before the day comes to an end.  I stand looking at the rocky hills, the blue desert sky, the Union banners flapping in the wind. Can there really be a connection between Calico and the Civil War?  Or is it all just a game of make believe?

Calico Train and Union Banner

I think back to the old Confederate soldier who showed me the supplies.

"I come from a family of cotton pickers and pecan pickers," he told me.  "I'm proud of my blue collar roots.  Even today--except for teachers--there are no professionals in my family."

His ancestors had originally settled in the South, before the Civil War disrupted their lives.  Between the utter destruction of property during the war and the slow and often vindictive nature of Reconstruction, the Southern economy was in shambles.  Soldiers had no home to return to.  Jobs dried up.  Many had no choice but to move elsewhere.  The old Confederate's family, along with countless other families, moved west, settling empty lands and filling up the Western United States.

"The Civil War gave Manifest Destiny a kick in the butt," the old Confederate soldier concluded.

Which brings me back to Calico.  The town is rooted squarely in the Cowboys-and-Indians era of American history.  Would that era have come about in such a dramatic fashion, if not for the Civil War?  The old Confederate argues that the lawlessness of the Wild West did not come about because people up and decided they wanted to break the law.  They robbed banks, because they were desperate.

View from the Train

The train pulls in.  I take a seat in the shade and pull out my camera to snap shots of tunnels and yellow deposits of clay.  The creaky overhead voice announces points of interest: the old settlement ruins, the richest silver mine, Chinatown.  My mind is still full of the events of the past.

"Little children come up to me and say, 'Why are you the bad guy?' " said a man in a gray Confederate uniform.  "It's not as simple as that.  This may offend some people, but you can't just take textbooks at their word.  You have to do your own research."

"I always tell people 750,000 Americans died in the Civil War," said the old Confederate soldier.  "Not Northerners.  Not Southerners.  Americans."



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Disclaimer: All quotes are approximate.

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Thank you for all those who patiently read through all these long-winded articles.  I hope you, like me, were able to learn just a little more about this fascinating period.  I owe a debt of gratitude to the Civil War re-enactors who spend so much of their time, money, and energy making history come alive.  You are awesome!  Thank you.


  1. I enjoyed reading your blog. It was as entertaining
    as the civil rights re enactment.

  2. Great job, Becky! You gave me room to think.