Civil War comes to life at soldier and settler encampment

The South rises again - and the damn Yankees, too - at a re-enactment of a Civil War soldier and settler encampment on Saturday and Sunday at Bowers Mansion Park.

The Nevada Civil War Volunteers will stage the living history, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free. The park is seven miles north of Carson City on Old Highway 395 in Washoe Valley.

"The Civil War is history and mystique and the roots of modern American civilization all wrapped up into one," said Larry Steinberg, spokesperson for the Volunteers, explaining the continuing allure of the period. Steinberg expects 400 to 500 visitors over the weekend.

About 75 people will create the re-enactment, a generic 1863 camp from the eastern theater of the Civil War. Northern and Southern forces will array themselves on either side of a central group of civilians. Participants will embody activities from the life of the time.

Fiddlers, guitarists and a bugler will perform period music. Cooks will prepare stews, meats and those old military standbys, bacon and hardtack.

Herbal remedies for battleground wounds will be demonstrated, along with needle crafts, lace making, spinning, candle dipping and, for kids, butter churning and games of the past.

There will even be a woodcutter, Jerry Buzzard, who's portraying his great-great-grandfather from Missouri, Steinberg said.

Other toiling laborers include a rope maker, a two-man saw team and a blacksmith melting lead over an open forge and molding it into different sized bullets.

Those bullets will take their place alongside the five or six different styles of reproduction muskets or pistols the soldiers will carry.

Although there won't be any skirmishes, a few Blues and Grays will demonstrate black powder weaponry by firing together in a volley or by firing consecutively down the line, which is called firing by file.

Steinberg said all weaponry is operational, although blank cartridges are used in skirmishes. Once a year, Steinberg's group conducts a live firing practice. Members take safety tests even if they don't handle weaponry.

Both soldiers and settlers at the encampment will appear in period dress. In their quest for historic accuracy, some Volunteers even have fabrics specially woven using Civil War methods.

Steinberg said standards of authenticity are so important to re-enactors that sometimes "it takes someone a year to get all their equipment together to fully participate."

The Nevada Civil War Volunteers has brought American history to life for 20 years, drawing Civil War buffs from across the West. Membership is $15 per year for an individual, $25 for a family. Children are welcome, although they must be at least 16 to handle weaponry.

Members provide their own arms and costumes, and the group offers a mentor program for new members.

Steinberg stressed that besides embodiments and skirmishes, the Volunteers conduct a free speakers bureau, march in parades and host a Valentine's Day ball at the Nevada State Library and Archives.

Steinberg urges anyone interested in the Volunteers to contact him at 246-3120 or Jacque Hagen at 882-5378.

"One way to understand history is to place yourself in it," he said. "By bonding with a group of people with similar interests, you can take steps into the past and be in the mind set of the 1860s."


What: Civil War Soldier and Settler Encampment

When: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Bowers Mansion


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