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News and Features
05.27.09

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Street Signs:

In search of refreshments and edification at the Memorial Day Civil War reenactments in Felton.

By Jaime Nabrynski


THIS year's Memorial Day wasn't quite the usual scorcher, but the line for $3 bottles of water at the Civil War re-enactments at Roaring Camp in Felton was nonetheless a 30-minute ordeal. The wait proved worthwhile after a friendly blacksmith convinced me to taste a piece of hard tack--a rock-solid, dehydrated cracker made from flour, water and a smidgen of salt--in order to experience "first-tongue" how the soldiers subsisted. Old-fashioned stick candy and snow cones would have perfectly wetted my whistle, but the Red Caboose Saloon refused to accept either credit or debit.

Even better than sweets, the topographical engineer from Brigade Headquarters pointed to where the scent of baked beans, sweet corn on the cob and ribs was wafting from. The only thing besides a lack of cash that stood in my way to the Chuckwagon BBQ was a tall, dark-haired figure dressed in black, herding a curious crowd like a shepherd tending his flock. A little boy with red hair and a face dense with freckles clawed for his mother's dress as she pushed him into Abraham Lincoln's open arms. The boy screamed and wriggled, but Abe held him tight long enough for the prized photo op.

"KABOOOM!" The first cannon of the day finally exploded at 2:45pm, leaving old Abe promptly abandoned as the herd trailed the smell of sulfur to the battlefield. At one end, the common soldiers of the South were lined up, stoically firing rifles in unison, still in work clothes after having come straight from the fields. In their blue coats and gold buttons, the decorated North had double the amount of infantry but lacked a cavalry unit because horses were not allowed at the campgrounds. Thousands of shots (or puffs of smoke paired with deafening explosions) rang out. A few soldiers fell to the ground in exaggerated spasms. Suddenly, about 20 minutes in, the South found a second wind and came charging up the flanks, using bayonets to tear through thick layers of smoke and laying low piles of Yankees with blood-stained mouths. A Union soldier I spotted earlier that morning eating a sandwich at Safeway shrieked and fell to the ground, the last body to hit the dirt before the North waved its flag in surrender. My side may have been defeated, but not every battle was lost--I found the ATM hidden behind Charlie's Powder Keg.


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