Reliving history serves as a family affair for many


The Civil War era marched into the end of the 20th century at Harrisburg's Grand Review 2000 re-enactment this weekend.

Families in Civil war-era garb mingled with modern-looking families lined up to watch the soldiers' mock homecoming parade down Seventh Street yesterday.

One family that looked as if had been lifted from the 1800s hurried for a shady spot from which to watch the parade.

"Hurry up, sergeant," the dad called out to his lagging son.

"I'm not a sergeant anymore, I'm a private now," the son replied indignantly.

Even children got into the act, and for a while, Harrisburg became a living history lesson. Some provisions of the Civil War era weren't compatible with modern-day living, however.

Nathan Peck, 15, of Spencer, N.Y., escaped from the sun underneath the grandstand at the end of the parade route. He has been re-enacting since he was 12 as a member of the drum-and-fife corps. In Harrisburg, he portrayed a civilian. He wore wind pants underneath his wool pants to ward off itching and heel plates on his authentic Civil War-era shoes.

"If you're going to a modern-day supermarket, you better hold on, because you're going to be ice skating," he said of the heel plates.

Re-enacting is an expensive habit. Nathan's outfit cost him more than $100. And when he turns 16, he wants to buy a gun; they range from $400 to $1,000.

"If you enjoy spending money, this is your hobby," he said.

Pat Iacone, a re-enactor in the 14th New Jersey Company, said developing sewing skills was a must after her husband became interested in re-enactments.

"We spent about $1,000 on his costume alone," she said. "There's no way I would have bought dresses for my three girls and myself."

Davine Bordley, a doctor from Pleasantville, N.J., has invested more than $35,000 in her hobby. Throughout her 10 years of re-enacting, she has purchased an average of two or three outfits a year, custom-made for her diminutive height.

"I go to the balls, I dance," she said. "I need some excitement in my life."

Participants do not get paid for events. But almost all the expenses related to a re-enactment are tax-deductible, Iacone said.

"We sewed all the dresses here," Iacone said, gesturing to the array of old-fashioned print dresses on a half-dozen women and girls.

The Iacones and their three daughters have been participating in re-enactments for eight years.

Although women did not march in the Grand Review, Pat Iacone said she has attended re-enactments where women and children did march.

"You develop a closeness with your family by doing something like this," she said.

Carmen Mount, another re-enactor in the 14th New Jersey Company, was the oldest of her family's three generations participating in the Grand Review. She got involved about four years ago when her son began re-enacting.

Karen Palmer, 46, of Reisterstown has long been interested in the history and decorations of the Victorian era. She became interested in the Civil War through her son-in-law, who has hooked other members of her family, too.

Palmer, who portrayed the mother of a soldier, appreciates some of the more traditional roles women played during that time. She had a new gown for the ball, and new accessories.

"If I had my way, I'd dress this way every day," she said. "Women were so much more feminine then than they are today."

Iacone said her family participates in about 10 re-enactments a year. She and her daughters will sit out the upcoming Gettysburg battle, as they usually do, though.

"Gettysburg is more for the soldiers, and there's not really any shade for the women to sit in since it's on a battlefield," she said. She and her daughters lounge in the pool while dad goes off to battle.

"Boys are much more into it than the girls," she said. "My husband said he and his friends used to play Blue and Gray when they were growing up. They get to relive their childhood through re-enacting."

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad