Although some might call the days leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg a painful time in American history, Civil War re-enactors Sandy Brunt-Harrington and Michael Harrington had plenty to smile about Saturday when they stepped back in time to 1863.
Sandy and Michael, members of the 1st North Carolina Artillery Battery C, tied the knot during a period wedding service held Saturday on the grounds of Union Mills Homestead, a museum of American culture in Westminster.
It was the first time a wedding had taken place during the museum's annual Civil War Encampment and Living History event, according to Stephanie Merson, civilian coordinator for the event.
"It feels awesome," said Sandy, glancing happily at her husband. "I wanted it to be simple and authentic — and it was."
The couple met in January and said they decided that holding their wedding during a re-enactment event would be the perfect way to get hitched. Both have ancestors who fought in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, they said.
"We go every single weekend, and I said it will be really neat to have [our wedding] at a re-enactment with all of our friends already there," Sandy said. "So we started looking at different places and I just loved Union Mills, and I said 'this is the place.' "
They were the first of two couples who said their vows during the re-enactment event before their friends, family members and visitors to the Union Mills Homestead. Both period weddings were part of a program of events throughout the weekend, which included a tactical skirmish, an artillery demonstration, a hospital demonstration and a Civil War barn dance.
Re-enactors spend the weekend camping out in tents, eating and dressing as people would have during the Civil War era. The purpose of the living history event was to relive the days surrounding the Battle of Gettysburg when Union Mills was occupied by the Union and Confederate armies.
Activities were held Saturday and Sunday to commemorate Carroll County's Civil War history at the encampment sites used by Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's Cavalry and Union Gen. George Sykes' V Corps in 1863, according to information provided by the Union Mills Homestead Foundation. The Union Mills Homestead is where the Union and Confederate armies crossed paths only hours apart before the Battle of Gettysburg, according to foundation information.
The Union Mills Homestead is located about 17 miles from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the battle took place.
Michael's best man, John Houck, major general of the 1st North Carolina Artillery, said the proper term for the ceremonies are "truce" weddings.
"They would have called a truce for the battle to take time out to let a couple get married," said Houck, who resides in Bel Air, "and then tomorrow go back to fight, so tomorrow, there's another battle."
Houck, who has been re-enacting as a hobby for 27 years, said re-enactors are part of a close-knit group.
"Those two have really put an attitude in this group of being together and being positive about things," Houck said. "It's been a whole tremendous thing for them, but us as well."
Houck said it is not uncommon for people to meet through the hobby.
James and Lori Francesconi, a couple who are part of the 9th Virginia Calvary Company B, were wed just minutes after Sandy and Michael in the same spot, near a garden on the museum's grounds.
Lori, a tour guide at the Shriver House Museum in Gettysburg, has been re-enacting for about 15 years. She met James in New Jersey at Vineland Founder's Day, an annual historic event at which they were introduced through a mutual friend, she said. Lori was in a Union group and James was in a Confederate group.
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The couple had initially planned a June 1 wedding, but when fellow re-enactors suggested they hold a double wedding with Sandy and Michael, they couldn't say no, Lori said.
As for the rest of the weekend, the couple said they planned to spend it quietly with their family.
Annemarie Francesconi, James' oldest sister, said she enjoyed stepping back in time to watch her brother get married.
"It was really sweet — I've never been to anything like this," she said.