War is hell. But not in Vista next weekend, when 300 to 500 of re-enactors will eagerly gather for the 13th annual Civil War Re-Enactment on the grounds of the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum.
Billed by organizers as the largest “outdoor play” in the region, the two-day event — from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 9 and 10 — draws history buffs from all over the state for two days of battles, living history camps and more.
The event draws from 3,000 to 4,000 spectators each year from all over the state, as well as local school groups that are learning about 19th century American history, according to Richard Wixon, whose Vision in Time Foundation produces this event, as well as several local renaissance and pirate fairs.
The re-enactors, all volunteers, come from as far as Northern California to participate in the event. Wixon said that the actors are usually Civil War buffs who own their own uniforms and muskets and have affiliated themselves with battalions of like-minded men.
“Many of these men trace their ancestry back to a certain battalion from the Civil War and they fight in the name of their ancestor,” Wixon said.
The battles take place at noon and 3 p.m. each day. Besides several hundred men on foot, the battles will feature 40 to 50 cavalry officers on horseback and 10 cannons, some of them replicas worth thousands of dollars, and occasionally an authentic Civil War cannon worth $20,000-$40,000.
“The cannons and muskets will be firing blanks, but there will be lots of smoke and explosions,” he said. “You can feel it thump in your chest.”
The Union and Confederate soldiers won’t be acting out a specific battle from history. Wixon said most Civil War battles lasted for days over a great expanse of land and involved up to 60,000 combatants. Instead, spectators will see a re-enactment of the battle tactics used during the Civil War.
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