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August 15, 2006 > Breathing Again: Battles, Fashion, and More at Civil War Days

Breathing Again: Battles, Fashion, and More at Civil War Days

by Jessamyn Edra

Once we were a country divided in war over the question of slavery and states rights. Those grim days often pitted brother against brother. That distinctive turning point, buried 141 years ago, will live and breathe again for two days of simulated gunpowder, blood and tears. It's Civil War Days and you are invited.

Civil War Days at Ardenwood Historic Farm will take place on Saturday, August 19, and Sunday, August 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Volunteers from the National Civil War Association (NCWA) and their partners, the American Civil War Association (ACWA), will recreate battles and scenes of daily life during the Civil War.

The motto of the NCWA says it all: "Keeping history alive by living it." According to their web site at, "The nearly 800 current members of the NCWA all share an intense love of history and the need to share that with others." This desire is clearly on display during Civil War Days. Yvonne Provaznik, Ardenwood's Park Supervisor, says, "The re-enactors are always in costume and in character, so it's a great opportunity to ask questions."

The reenactments are not a small feat considering that "all period clothing, equipment and weapons are individually owned. All members, board members and directors serve completely voluntarily," according to the NCWA site. Battle reenactments will take place on Saturday and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Each battle will be approximately thirty to forty minutes long. "There are horses on both sides marching at each other," describes Provaznik. Stunning pyrotechnics realistically mimic the sound and feel of the explosions of war. For Provaznik, "The highlight is the battle." And she is not the only one who thinks so. She advises that people arrive early, citing the fifteen minute walk to the battle site and a rush to secure the best seats in the bleachers.

After the battle, there are reenactments of battlefield surgery at both the Confederate and the Union camp sites. Volunteers will present Civil War medical techniques, describing what they used and whether or not it worked well, as they slice and dice soldiers. A soldier's life off the battlefield is also explored. "They usually have a couple soldiers give talks about what life is like," says Provaznik.

Civil War life for civilians is not neglected. According to the ACWA web site at, "The American Civil War affected almost every family in the United and Confederate States. Whether at home waiting, following the army as 'sutlers' and camp followers or serving the soldiers directly as nurses and contractors, the Civil War was by no means a strictly military affair."

Thus, in addition to Confederate and Union camp sites, Ardenwood will also host a civilian camp and one for "sutlers." Sutlers were the vendors who sold food and supplies to the troops. Provaznik mentions that, "People can buy items representative of the Civil War era from them."
A lot of effort goes into making sure each detail of the reenactment is accurate, right down to the style of dress on and off the battlefield. To that effect, there will be a fashion show at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Between scheduled events, Ardenwood Historic Farm invites guests to simply "wander through the encampments to experience the sights and sounds of history brought to life," according to their web site at As Provaznik concludes, "It's a great opportunity for kids to learn about history, what almost tore this country apart and what kept it together."

Civil War Days
Sat. and Sun., August 19 to 20
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Ardenwood Historic Farm
34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont
Adults, $8; seniors, $6; children 4 to 17, $5; under 4, free
Parking, free

For more information, call (510) 796-0663 or visit

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