By Rachel Smith, Educator, Confederate Reunion Grounds
On April 29–30, the Friends of the Confederate Reunion Grounds will host its 23rd annual Civil War Living History and Reenactment at Confederate Reunion Grounds State Historic Site. The event has become a popular yearly tradition for local residents and history buffs from far and wide.
The presentation of mock battles or reenactments dates back to the Civil War, when spectators brought picnics to watch mock or real battles from the sidelines. Watching real battles for entertainment might seem strange to us today, but it was a common enough practice at the time of the Civil War. Accounts tell of civilians, senators, and picnicking families coming to watch the First Battle of Bull Run at Manassas, Va. When the battle broke out beyond the battlefield, the spectators were forced to flee, seeing that this war would be no picnic after all.
Reenactments were also staged as a means of training new recruits and as a form of patriotic entertainment for the folks back home. After the war, veterans were sometimes persuaded to participate in mock battles to remember their wartime experiences, reconnect with comrades, and put on a patriotic display in their old uniforms.
When veterans started holding reunions at the Confederate Reunion Grounds in Mexia, the men would wear their uniforms, listen to patriotic speeches, enjoy food and fun activities, and fire the old Val Verde Cannon at dawn and dusk each day of the reunion. Although no Civil War battles were fought in Central Texas, three out of every four free men in Limestone County served in the Confederate Army, and these reunions were an important social gathering. While records do not seem to suggest that mock battles ever occurred at the Confederate Reunion Grounds, the spirit of remembering the past is a common thread connecting the veterans’ reunions to the Civil War reenactments today.
Read more about past reenactments at the Confederate Reunion Grounds and learn more about this year’s reenactment visit.