Civil War Reenactment Draws Record School-Day Attendance

Union soldiers march to the battlefield for their upcoming battle reenactment. Photos by Zeva Rosenbaum

By Zeva Rosenbaum

An annual Civil War reenactment held at Cheadle Lake Park May 17-19 saw great attendance, with a record 1,000 kids attending the school day on Friday.

Manned primarily by the Northwest Civil War Council, the reenactment featured two daily battle reenactments, medical demonstrations, a fashion show, presentations and living historians available to answer questions about the way of life during the American Civil War.

Commander John Leaton said attendance “nosedived” due to COVID, so it was great to see so many people come this year.

“It’s really just an opportunity to bring history to life,” Leaton said. “The CWC is made up of individual clubs, so every camp you see is a different club, as it were, and we come together under the umbrella. It’s an opportunity to present living history.”

While the highlight is the Civil War, Leaton said there are lots of “highly educated” people who know about things like guns and munitions, soldier accouterments and daily life from the time period.

Leaton, who has been taking part in reenactments for 19 years now, has made the experience  a family affair as well.

“My wife and I home-schooled our four children, so they grew up in this hobby,” he said.

According to Leaton, they also host a history class at Linn-Benton Community College every year so interested students can learn about the Civil War era in more depth. The CWC also keeps loaner gear on hand, so interested people can try out the experience without committing to a full membership.

Participants come from all over the state as well as from Washington, according to Leaton. They have several upcoming events, such as Powerland in Salem during the 4th of July weekend, Battle for Clatsop County in Astoria, and the Albany Veterans Day Parade, among others.

Major Steve Stowell, who has been participating since 1991, said he took a 10-year break while his son was young, but they got back into reenactments together when he was old enough. Now his son is moving to the southern states, where he will continue taking part.