Carroll County Times

Civil War re-enactment, encampment peeks into life during 1860s

Photographer John Milleker pulls the dark slide from his view camera before photographing Cara Seals, 5, and her grandmother, Cricket Gelfert, during the Civil War Living History Reenactment at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster Sunday. Milleker photographed the pair using a wet-plate collodion photographic process that was used during the Civil War.

John Milleker explained how photographs documented the events of the Civil War while he used the same chemical processes and a Petzval lens Sunday to take similar keepsake photos.

He explained the process to the public and how he only had minutes to develop the photograph. For those not dressed up in period clothing, he provided items to borrow to make the picture more authentic.


"Most people know what the photos look like; they just don't know how the were created," he said.

The photography stand was one of several Civil War-era showcases at the Civil War Living History Reenactment, which took place Saturday and Sunday at the Carroll County Farm Museum. Other displays included blacksmithing, a doctor's tent and a cooking demonstration.


Two battles also took place each day -- a tactical and a major battle.

During Sunday's major battle, Union and Confederate soldiers stood in lines facing each other, taking turns firing rounds of gunfire into the air. Soldiers on horse would occasionally ride up to the fighting and fire before retreating, all while Union soldiers carefully loaded canons and fired into the field, making spectators flinch at the sound.

The Confederate soldiers advanced and the Union soldiers fell back during the skirmish, some soldiers falling to the ground from fake injuries. Unlike civilians more than 150 years ago, onlookers Sunday had their cellphones out, capturing video of the battle.

The visitors applauded the Union soldiers as they marched off the field at the end of the skirmish.

John Houck, a re-enactor with the 1st North Carolina Artillery, said the major battle Sunday was not a re-enactment of any particular Civil War battle, but instead just a skirmish between two armies looking for supplies and weapons that just happened to run into each other.

He explained that more than 10,000 military engagements were recorded in the Civil War archives.

Confederate Calvary General Jeb Stuart came through Carroll County on his way to Gettysburg and could have even traveled over Farm Museum property, he said.

"It's not just about what we do here, but the history of this place," he said.


People can come to the re-enactment each year to learn interesting facts about the Civil War, Houck said. This event inspires people to visit Gettysburg and learn more about the nation's history.

"We're here to let these people see what these guys went through for four horrifying years, and hopefully to give them a little taste of what it could have been like," he said.

Jeanie Griffin and her children, Skyler and Tyler, of Union Bridge, said they never miss the re-enactment.

Skyler picked up a doll at the encampment, where she said it's amazing how authentic the tents looked.

"This is our tradition," she said. "We love it."

She and her brother enjoyed the skirmish, especially the canon fire.


Jeanie said the re-enactors allowed her children to hold their guns to show how heavy they are. Everyone was friendly and willing to pose for pictures with the children.

"This event just never disappoints us," she said. "This year is great."

Cricket Gelfert, of Pasadena, dressed in period attire and posed with her granddaughter, five-year-old Cara Seals, in a Civil War-era photo. When they picked up the image from Milleker, they were impressed with the results.

"I thought it would be nice for her to have," Gelfert said.

She and her husband, Andy Gelfert, usually show the civilian impact of the Civil War during re-enactments. Andy Gelfert performed a 1860s church service and discussed the different duties of a chaplain during the war.

Cricket Gelfert said it doesn't matter what side people fought on, and re-enactors take part in the hobby as a way to honor their ancestors.


"At the end of the war, we were all Americans," she said.