The smell and roar of cannon and musket fire. The thrill of watching the enemy cavalry charging toward you. Period uniforms — right down to the boots, breeches and buttons. Some history fans aren’t just armchair buffs; they crave the immersion in a long-ago era and volunteer in historic battle re-enactments. As the birthday of our nation nears, and as we continue to honor the 150th anniversary of the Civil War that almost tore America apart, here are a few re-enactments of historic battles — complete with cannons, muskets and horses — to watch in the next six months.
Battle of Gettysburg, July 6–8
Five battle re-enactments, plus various talks about Civil War spies, medicine, photography and strategy with both Union and Confederate officers. Gettysburg is the start of the four-state, 180-mile The Journey Through Hallowed Ground route (www.hallowedground.org), which covers hundreds of Civil War battlegrounds and Revolutionary War sites in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. www.gettysburgreenactment.com
Battle of Antietam-Sharpsburg, Sept. 14–16
Re-enactment of the first Civil War battle on Northern soil, considered by historians to be the bloodiest single day in U.S. history, with more than 22,000 dead, wounded or missing. Held at Legacy Manor Farm, four miles from Antietam National Battlefield and one and a half hours west of Baltimore. www.150thantietamreenactment.com
Battle of Cedar Creek, Oct. 20–21
Re-enactment of the last great Civil War battle in the scenic Shenandoah Valley town of Middletown, in the state with the most Civil War battlefields.
Battle of New Orleans; Jan. 11–12, 2013
A living history encampment of the last major battle of the War of 1812, where the future president, General Andrew Jackson (with the aid of pirate Jean Lafitte), defeated the British. Lafitte provided men and supplies to the battle near Chalmette Battlefield, now Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Located just outside New Orleans, the encampment is free, but a guided lantern-lit night tour of the encampments requires advance tickets. www.nps.gov/jela
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