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14th Annual Marilla Civil War Reenactment

On July 29 & 30, Marilla, New York held its 14th Annual Civil War Days at Marilla Town Park. The weekend was packed full of activities, including a ladies period tea party, artillery demonstrations, candlelight tours, a period dance and church service, and of course battle reenactments. At Sutlers Row, vendors sold Civil War memorabilia, flags, books, and uniforms.

Each year has something a little different to offer. Previously, the event featured barn burnings, ground charges, and falling trees and buildings. Saturday’s reenactment was more conventional.

Participating units included the 1st Tennessee, 4th South Carolina, 21st Georgia, 42 Virginia, 138th New York, 200th Indiana, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery, and more.

Maxwell’s Battery was one of the Union artillery units to participate in the reenactment. They hail from Canisteo in western New York and are unique in that they re-enact both sides of the conflict.

As a Union outfit, they represent Battery K of the 1st U.S. Artillery. When Confederate, they are Maxwell’s Battery of the 1st Georgia Regular Artillery. Historically, Battery K was a horse artillery unit, meaning its crew traveled on horseback for rapid movement.

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Video from Marilla Civil War Days

Marilla, New York held its 14th Annual Civil War Days the weekend of July 29 & 30, 2017. The weekend was packed full of activities, including a ladies period tea party, artillery demonstrations, candlelight tours, a period dance and church service, and of course battle reenactments. Participating units included the 1st TN, 4th SC, 21st GA, 42 VA, 138th NY, 200th IN, Maxwell’s Battery, and more! Music for this video is “The Secesh (Shiloh)” by John Hartford, from the compilation album Songs Of The Civil War (1991).

Are We Too Politically Correct to Accurately Portray the Past?

Last weekend, I attended the 14th Annual Marilla Civil War Days in western New York. I haven’t been to a Civil War reenactment since I briefly participated at the Gettysburg reenactment in 2009 (aw yea, check it out ladies—->).

The event website promised a unique experience (“The Civil War Days event is nowhere close to your typical reenactment. We have been known for barn burnings, ground charges, falling trees & buildings and much more!”). Suffice to say, only one of those things happened while I was there. I left disappointed, but not only because nothing caught on fire.

I thought the purpose of reenacting was not just to have fun and dress up for the day but to educate the public and commemorate the American soldiers who fought on both sides.

Before I continue, a disclaimer: Nothing I’m about to say is meant to disparage the men and women who have a passion for history, the Civil War, and historical reenacting. I love all those things, and am happy to find people who share those interests. I wish more would become involved in these events.

However, there were a number of things that left me shaking my head.

  • Where were the horses? Horses were the primary means of transportation for wagons, cannon, officers, and mounted troops during the Civil War. Not. One. Single. Horse.
  • The Confederates used what I was told was a 30-pound cannon. The 4.2-inch (30-pounder) Parrott rifle was a siege cannon that wasn’t used in the field. Historically, Confederates used two at the Battle of Fredericksburg in defensive positions but their barrels burst.
  • I saw women reenactors dressed up as soldiers and fighting in infantry units.
  • I saw African American reenactors (one with a huge Afro) fighting with white troops in a Union regiment.
  • I saw some reenactors wearing obviously modern clothing (including sneakers).

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