Debbie Croft: Civil War re-enactment this weekend

April 19, 2013 

At the time, only 34 stars appeared on the United States flag. Abraham Lincoln and his family were the newest occupants of the White House.

And the nation was painfully divided on the issues of states' rights and slavery, so much so that 11 states would secede from the union, thrusting the country into a war that lasted four long and bitter years.

To average Americans, towns and familiar landmarks were the places where they lived, worked, farmed, attended school and conducted business. But by 1865 the historical significance behind such names as Vicksburg (Mississippi), Shiloh (Tennessee), Appomattox (Virginia), Harper's Ferry (West Virginia), and Gettysburg (Pennsylvania) was permanently altered and forever immortalized.

This weekend, Long's Ranch in Mariposa County will become Longville, the fictitious town and battlefield of the Las Mariposas Civil War Days.

The Lions Club of Mariposa once sponsored the event, holding battles on ranchland near Highway 49 and Agua Fria Road. When it was discontinued, Frank Long contacted Dianne Fritz, who served on the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors.

She went for a truck ride on Long's property, and he suggested reviving the event at his ranch.

Currently Tom Bispo is the Las Mariposas Civil War Group event coordinator, and Fritz serves as the event chairwoman. They, along with a handful of others, organize the event each year. The American Civil War Association is also involved.

"The first year we lost money," said Fritz. "Now we have some great local sponsors who donate, but more sponsors and volunteers are needed."

Money is raised to rent golf carts for transporting handicapped visitors.

Local Boy Scouts hold a mini-jamboree and help with parking, directing traffic and grounds maintenance during the weekend.

Fees are not charged to non-profit vendors and sutlers (those selling provisions or providing services to the soldiers).

Many re-enactors bring their own food and personal items for "camping out." Some chose to pay for lodging and dining in Mariposa.

"The amount of caring from the re-enactors is amazing," Fritz said. "They do this for the sheer love of teaching."

Visitors frequently come from states including Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming. The living history they experience is fascinating, many say.

"The thing that drew me to this is the Education Day (held on Friday for schools)," Fritz said.

She believes children need to know what happened, so we don't repeat the devastation our country endured.

Those who attend this year's event can expect to meet some of the Civil War era's most notable figures, including President Lincoln, General Grant, General Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Colonel Fremantle, Clara Barton and Sojourner Truth.

A variety of activities and exhibits are open to the public at different times on Saturday and Sunday:

• Cavalry riders and foot soldiers demonstrate military tactics.

• Union and confederate brigades march in morning drills.

• Visitors can write a letter to a soldier and have it delivered by the Pony Express.

• Spectators can witness battles as they take place.

• Historical presentations will be given.

• Visitors can watch a fashion show from another time period.

• Primitive medical procedures will be explained.

• Visitors can see how people lived and occupied themselves without modern conveniences and inventions.

• Re-enactors will talk about their roles at campsites and town socials .

A schedule is posted at www.thecivilwardays.com. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the website or call (866) 425-3366 or (209) 966-7081.

Las Mariposas Civil War Days is history in the re-making.

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