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Five years ago I would have never thought about visiting a Civil War Reenactment; to be frank I never actually thought about a Civil War Reenactment. 

But here I was, walking through the encampments, excited to see the upcoming battle. In fairness this was actually not my first time here. You see in 2014 a card game sent me to Middletown Virginia. The game was Apples to Apples.

I don't even know how to play the game, but at the time I was in a photographic rut. I figured Ralph and I could use the cards for inspiration and each week pull a new card and try to capture a photograph that represents the card best.

So as it happened on the 12th of October 2014 I pulled this card from the stack.

What are the chances that on that very weekend The Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation was holding their 150th anniversary reenactment of the battle of Cedar Creek? That was the good news, the bad news was the battlefield was 320 miles away from us...

It didn't matter though, it was a great opportunity and an event I would have never before considered visiting. So we went, and you know what? We had an outstanding time. I learned a huge amount about the Civil War, and I gained a broader perspective on the war and those who descended from the soldiers who fought there. 

Which is by the way a significant point, everyone I spoke with, both Union and Confederate, were decedents of actual soldiers, doctors, and the like. They regrouped into their ancestors regiments and honored their legacy to the best of their abilities. 

Many of the Men and Women who reenact these battles are descended of people on both sides of the war; remember, this was a war between brothers, neighbors, and friends. It can be difficult to be sure which side your family may have fought for, or if they did fight at all. There are a great many misconceptions about the civil war, and the people who fought in it. However, this is neither the time or the place to preach nor grind an axe.

So when I found myself with an available weekend that coincided with the reenactment again I jumped at the chance. We loaded up the Subaru at...2AM; and set off for the most northerly tip of Virginia. We arrived around 8 in the morning to find heavy cloud cover and a pretty good chill in the air. North Carolina and Virginia have very different Octobers. 

In 2014 we spent nearly the entire time with the Union Troops, so we decided that this year we would focus on the Confederate camp. 

If you have never been to a reenactment, you owe it to yourself to go at least once. I promise you that it is not what you expect. It feels like walking through a history book. Everything is time period; tents, clothing, flags, even food. Its outstanding, and everyone is very passionate about history, nearly every person you come across is a treasure trove of information.

I met a man from Canada, his ancestor fought in the 2nd Michigan Union Volunteer Infantry. After the war his family moved to Canada, but he returns each year to honor his forefather. 

I met another from Germany, his ancestor fought for the Confederates, he also returns to the USA each year to honor the past. 

You see this is a multi-national event to honor the legacy of those on both sides. There are people of every race, profession, and creed that make up the participants. I admit that was perhaps the biggest surprise of all on my first visit. 

I feel like most of the spectators miss out on what is, to my mind the best part of this event. Sure the battle is exciting, but the real draw for me is meandering through the encampments and talking to the reenactors. everyone was so nice and inviting. Everyone has a story, a perspective, and a voice that is worth listening to. 

There is so much to see and explore here, there are people who are Artists, Musicians, Outdoorsman, and History buffs. This event attracted a huge crowd and everyone has their own personal reason to be here. 

Jack, a man from New York told me he just loves primitive camping and the comradely he gets in these events is enough to justify the trip each year. He wears the grey, as did his great, great, great, great grandfather.

That was a recurring theme, this event is obviously as much about friendship as it is about history. Everywhere you look you would see groups of people, Union and Confederate together; talking, laughing, cooking, singing. for these people this place was like a huge family reunion, many of these people were close friends that only saw each other once a year at this event. 

I personally love time period events, the Renaissance Festival and this Civil War Reenactment especially. There is something very cool about being immersed in a different time period. I think it is a lot of what I enjoy about camping and hiking. Getting unplugged, out of touch with life for a little while. An opportunity to put that cell phone on silent and not feel bad about it. 

I think in this day and age a great many people are asking if we should have these reenactments. They wonder why they are still going on. It is my belief, after going to them myself, that we NEED to have them.

It is important for people to understand the context of our history, to understand the situation that people in the war found themselves in. not just the reasons they fought, but what it meant to fight. It is all good and well to look back at the past though modern eyes, but things were different in the mid 1800's. By spending time in a similar environment it helps to put things into perspective.

We have so little history, we are a very young nation after all. It is important that people are able to learn about what history we do have. Anyone who has any justified voice in the debate our country finds itself in most certainly has at least one ancestor who fought in the war between the states. North or South, rich or poor they fought to protect their families, their homes, and their beliefs. Isn't that worth honoring?

I think so. 

-Ben Greene

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