Civil War re-enactments will celebrate Constitution
All it took for Greg “Strider” Yocum was one visit four years ago to the Constitution Weekend’s Civil War re-enactments.
He joined the American Civil War Association on the spot. As a result, he portrays a Confederate soldier annually at about nine living history events throughout California.
The association sponsors Civil War living history and re-enactments at this weekend’s 36th annual Constitution Day Parade and Celebration.
“It’s such an interesting time,” Yocum said. “The changes that happened between 1860 and 1865 – it was just an amazing time. So much happened so fast.”
For example, Yocum points to this war as the reason weapons became mass-produced.
“Before the Civil War, most muskets used were smooth-bore. In the Civil War, they put a groove in the rifle so the bullet would go straighter,” he explained.
“Before the war, most weaponry was made individually, one at a time. Because of the war, they started making armories where they could make thousands of weapons.”
Other tidbits Yocum offered about the War Between the States: It marked the first time troops traveled by train and the first time trench warfare was used.
“Before then, battles were fought forever with the Napoleon tactic, where soldiers faced each other. With trench warfare, they finally figured out, ‘Why don’t we dig a hole so we won’t be shot as easily?'” Yocum said.
“If you think about it, there’s so much to the Civil War,” he continued. “If you take families and split them in half, you never know if you’re shooting at your cousin. It was … so fascinating, the people, their attitudes, their beliefs, their clothes, the whole era. I could bore you for days with details.”
It’s not that Yocum, a history buff since childhood, likes war – he just can’t stop thinking about the phenomenon.
“If we were there and we were sitting in a trench, we don’t know them, we don’t know why we’re shooting. It’s just amazing,” he said.
He will be among 300 to 400 association members from Santa Cruz to Redding who will be in character at authentically reproduced Union, Confederate and civilian camps at Pioneer Park this weekend.
In the Civil War, Yocum pointed out, civilian camps near the army camps were comprised of wives, children, prostitutes and individuals selling soldiers everything from personal items to food.
In between battle re-enactments – at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday at Pioneer Park – the public is encouraged to talk to the re-enactors, who stay in character all weekend long.
“There’s a lot to learn. You walk through the camps and it’s like you’re back in 1863, when they cooked on fires,” Yocum said.
“You’ll see the difference in camps. The Yankees’ camp was nice and orderly with tents in neat rows and ladies cooking. Their fire had nice utensils nearby with a pot hanging,” he continued. “Go to the Reb camp and it’s pretty ragtag at times; we weren’t as well supplied. If there’s a fire, it would be a hole in the ground. Cooking would be something on a stick.”
Yocum doesn’t mind being on the losing side of the war.
“The Confederate soldiers had a lot of heart and truly believed what they were fighting for,” Yocum said. “They were outnumbered three to one, and still they fought hard.”
For this weekend, Yocum’s job as a carpenter and his home life in the Lake of the Pines area are put on hold as he helps to illustrate a chapter from American history.
“Camping out there at Pioneer Park, we wake up in the morning to the bugle and fall into formation,” Yocum said. “I miss the comforts of home, but it’s too much fun. So much fun. I’ve yet to find anything I enjoy as much as this.”
WHAT: 36th annual Constitution Day Parade and Celebration events
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday
WHERE: Downtown Nevada City
INFORMATION: 265-2692 or 265-2496
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