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Civil War re-enactors aim to educate the public

Sunday's battle depicted an accidental skirmish that could have happened while both sides were foraging for supplies. Many small battles occurred in this manner throughout the war.

Amid cannon fire, several spectators intently watched as more than 100 Civil War re-enactors battled on the grounds of the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster on Sunday morning. The skirmish was part of the museum's annual spring living history encampment.

"This war was so devastating to this country because it was fought between Americans," said John Houck as he narrated the battle for viewers.

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According to Carroll County Farm Museum Director Joanne Weant, the event fits very well with the museum's educational mission. The encampment was held throughout the rainy weekend and featured one of the earliest encounters of the Civil War, the Battle of Big Bethel, on Saturday.

"We're very pleased with the turnout considering the weather and Mother's Day," Weant said. "We appreciate the commitment of the re-enactors because they stay on the grounds and it's definitely been damp."

Houck, of Bel Air, said Sunday's battle depicted an accidental skirmish that could have happened while both sides were foraging for supplies. He explained there were many small battles that occurred in this manner throughout the war.

"Today we're doing general battles that could have happened anywhere," Houck said. "It gives us a chance to explain the history to people who don't know much about it. A lot of schools don't teach it in depth anymore."

History teacher Steven Findeisen, of Westminster, brought his daughter, Lara, 12, to the event.

"I like the enthusiasm they have … and the patience they have when answering any little question," Findeisen said.

Lara said she learned a lot by walking through the camps.

"I learned that the south had so many different uniforms because they didn't have as many factories as the North," Lara said.

Tammy Blevins, of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, enjoyed the battle with her 4-year-old son, Oliver.

"If you look at today's war, it seems very chaotic and quick, but the re-enactments are very methodical," Blevins said. "My son has an interest in the mechanics of war, so we're trying to let him experience it up close but let him know there's a reason why people fight wars."

Jim Hillman, of Westminster, sat with his granddaughter, Kenadie, 8, to watch the re-enactment.

"I wanted to show her what's going on and talk about history," Hillman said.

Kathryn Jewell, of Mount Airy, closely watched for her son, Dustin Miller, who was one of the re-enactors, to appear on the field.

"I learn something new every time," Jewell said. "I think people watching get the knowledge of what really happened. They're seeing history and having fun doing it."

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Roger Smith, of Westminster, visited the farm museum for the first time to observe the battles.

"As they say in the movie "Gettysburg," this is good ground," Smith said. "I've learned a lot, and I'll definitely visit again."

Back in the camps, 6-year-old Ramses Morris, of Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, donned a uniform for the first time. Ramses portrayed a powder monkey, someone who carries gunpowder to the cannons.

"I'm going to help load the cannon!" Ramses said excitedly.

After the battle, re-enactor Chris Monzi, of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, said re-enacting is a fun challenge.

"I enjoy the thinking I have to do on my feet while in battle," Monzi said. "When we're out on the field, it's about safety, authenticity and having fun. The goal of it all is to educate the public about the experience of soldiers on both sides during the American Civil War."

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