Sunday, August 9, 2009

Civil War Submarine Warfare

Yesterday I visited the Pierce Creek Civil War reenactment in the Town of Binghamton. It had been many years since I had been to a Civil War reenactment - I have been to various Civil War battleground parks, including Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, and The Wilderness, but not to their actual battle reenactments. I can truly say this one was very well done. (Sorry, no photos, I forgot to bring my camera.)

Kudos to Rich Gow for answering our questions as we watched a skirmish in progress. Not just any old battle but one including naval personnel. He had us half believing a submarine would emerge from a pond on the battlefield. Of course it didn't but several "sailors" gave their lives valiantly-in make believe battle, of course. One "wounded" young boy spent part of the battle realistically and painfully dragging himself out of the line of fire. Since the "battlefield" was actually a pasture, that must not have been fun.

Even airplanes passing overhead and the occasional ring of a cell phone did not detract from the spirit of the almost 45 minute skirmish.

It was an "early Civil War" skirmish, not any particular one, perhaps made up by the participants as they went along-always with historical accuracy in mind. Rich "plays" a Confederate general who tells "his" side of the story wonderfully and answers the crowd's questions. He reminded us that Robert E. Lee faced an agonizing decision as he was offered the leadership of the Union army at the beginning of the war. And, from the southern point of view, the Civil War was not at all about the issue of slavery, but rather states' rights.

We came away understanding a lot and also learned about a new dimension of Civil War battle-the battle under the seas. Yes, submarines in the 1860's.

There was a wonderful exhibit about a Civil War submarine called the Alligator and an expert on Civil War submarine warfare was there to answer our questions. Many people know about the Hunley, but there was a lot more to this little known part of Civil War history.

Getting back to the battle, there were quite a number of children sleeping in tents in both the Union and CSA camps. I wonder what it is like to grow up in a historical reenactment family. To me, it would have been a fascinating way to grow up. I'm not much into acting but the historical nature of such a childhood would have been quite an experience for me.

Next stop-a major battle reenactment. Rich told us a little about the annual one in Gettysburg. Maybe next year.

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