The Battle of Gettysburg as Reenacted at Hale Farm & Village, August 2013

By arohmiller, posted on October 9th, 2013.
Filed under: News

Written By: Kelly Falcone, Senior Vice President of Interpretation/COO, Western Reserve Historical Society

Hale Farm & Village’s Civil War Reenactment is always a highlight of the Western Reserve Historical Society’s (WRHS) annual event calendar. By far our largest event in terms of reenactor participation and attendance, the longevity and success of the event can be measured by the quality of the experience that is created when 700 Civil War reenactors work alongside museum staff to envision something that is described by reenactors and visitors alike as “spectacular,”  “unique,” and even “surreal.”

Since it was the 25th Annual Civil War Reenactment held at Hale Farm & Village in August 2013, we used the occasion as an excuse to host a special anniversary dinner for current and past commanders. Over dinner, we learned that our own Confederate Commander, Colonel Nick Medich of Medich’s Battalion and former HFV commander, Don Howdyshell, are legendary in the reenactment field, inspiring top brass including Hale Farm’s Federal Commander, Colonel Bob Minton of the Army of the Ohio; Captain Greg Van Wey, 5th Texas Company A; Captain Mike Church, 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry; and Colonel Chris Smith, Birney’s Division, to join up and aspire to leadership positions over the last 20 years.

The skills, knowledge, stories, and passion for history and reenacting that are passed down are truly remarkable. Sadly, I suspect the extent of this unique “apprenticeship” system and the high regard for education and accuracy is either not known or truly appreciated by those outside of the realm of Civil War reenacting. The knowledge in the room that evening about the Civil War and American history was inspiring. Equally compelling is the camaraderie and close familial ties that develop within the reenacting organizations. Their commitment to educating the public about the Civil War contributes to the overall quality and effectiveness of the interest in this hobby and in our event.

Another highlight of this year’s event was reenacting Day One of the Battle of Gettysburg.  For the first time, the battle was fought down the middle of Hale Farm & Village with soldiers, artillery, and 45 mounted cavalry dodging historic buildings, fences, and spectators. About 4,700 spectators suspended their disbelief, watching in awe as the recreated 19th C. Village was transformed into the town of Gettysburg. For the first time in its 25 year history at Hale Farm & Village, the battle was narrated to enhance the overall experience for our guests.  An outdoor public address system informed the spectators step by step, what was occurring in the battle. That additional layer of interpretation of the battle was found to be especially helpful to visitors, especially first-timers.

Finally, Hale Farm & Village was honored to receive the Ohio Civil War 150 Heritage Award for “commemorating Ohio’s role in the Civil War through an annual event that is open to the public.” Accepting the award was humbling, in part because it was presented by Colonel Bob Minton himself, with the Army of the Ohio looking on.  These individuals bring the knowledge, passion and showmanship to Hale Farm & Village. Their vision, hard work, knowledge and deep seated love of history transform it overnight into another place and time for the benefit of the community.  It is an honor to work with them to bring this story alive.

Thank you, Civil War Reenactors, for another great year.  See you August 9 & 10, 2014!

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