Comstock Civil War era lives again
October 17, 2005
By Sasha Adler-Turk
Nevada Appeal News Service
A brass bugle summons the spectators’ attention to troops marching onto the battlefield. Shots pop from a soldier’s rifle and the battle is underway. Cannon blasts and white smoke rings somersault into the blue sky. Cavalry re-enactor Marcus Clark, a Northern Nevada resident, reassures his brothers serving as infantryman on the front lines.
“Maybe by the grace of God the bullets will go by your ears,” he said.
The 16th annual Civil War Revisited took place at historic Kearny Park in Fresno, Calif. With nearly 2,000 participants, it is the largest Civil War re-enactment in the West. It painstakingly recreates war-torn America of the 1860s, including four re-enactments of the first Battle of Bull Run at Manassas, Va. In total, 650,000 Americans died in the Civil War, representing more dead than all other American wars combined.
Skip Hammargren, Clark, and others are there to represent Nevada’s Civil War volunteer cavalry. As members of the Reno-based Comstock Civil War Reenactors club, they will escort U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons during Saturday’s 2005 Nevada Day Parade.
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Nevada Territory became a state in 1864. Its first trans-continental telegram, sent in 1861 to Gov. James Nye in Washington, D.C., proclaimed: “Nevada Territory, through her first Legislative Assembly, to the president and people of the United States, greeting: Nevada for the Union, ever true and loyal, the last born to the nation will be the last to desert her flag. Her aid to the extent of her ability can be relied upon to crush rebellion.”
In 1859, when Virginia City gold miners assayed the mud they were shoveling and found silver ore, Nevada Territory suddenly became desirable to both Lincoln’s Union and the rebel Confederates.
The Comstock Lode pioneers may have sympathized with the Confederates’ dogged independence, but any public Confederate rumblings were quickly silenced. In Virginia City, you couldn’t walk into a bar and start talking about supporting the Confederacy, says Hammargren.
Silence follows the last shot as the smoke clears and the battle ends. Union and Confederate re-enactors gather among canvas shelters in their respective camps. Darkness falls. Campfires and lanterns glow. Guns are cleaned and stories of the day are told.
“It’s the history and the comrades,” says cavalryman Richard Lee of Sparks. “We have a brotherhood as if we’ve known each other in a past life.”
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