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updated: 9/6/2012 2:59 PM

Re-enactors recreate Revolutionary War in Wheaton

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  • Re-enactors portraying British soldiers will take up their guns in two battles both Saturday and Sunday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

       Re-enactors portraying British soldiers will take up their guns in two battles both Saturday and Sunday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.
    PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer, 2010

  • The Revolutionary War re-enactment at Cantigny takes history buffs back further in time than most area encampments, which typically focus on the Civil War.

       The Revolutionary War re-enactment at Cantigny takes history buffs back further in time than most area encampments, which typically focus on the Civil War.
    PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer, 2010

  • Re-enactors at Cantigny won't act out real battles from the Revolutionary War, but instead will demonstrate the strategies colonial and British armies used at the time.

       Re-enactors at Cantigny won't act out real battles from the Revolutionary War, but instead will demonstrate the strategies colonial and British armies used at the time.
    PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer, 2010

  • Visitors should come prepared for the sounds of battle. The canon boasts a loud "boom" and is generally a crowd-pleaser.

       Visitors should come prepared for the sounds of battle. The canon boasts a loud "boom" and is generally a crowd-pleaser.
    PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer, 2010

 
 

Weekends are usually synonymous with leisure, but consider Tim Hess.

The Streamwood man will be living without electricity, hunting for food and water and trying to avoid death on a battlefield Saturday and Sunday.

Well, a simulated battlefield.

Still, "it's the real deal," Hess, 48, said.

Cannons will be exploding and Hess will be dressed in full uniform. But his real priority will be trying to avoid running out of gun powder.

"That's usually when you become a casualty," Hess said.

It's all part of the Revolutionary War re-enactment Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 8 and 9, at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. As many as 300 re-enactors from the Northwest Territory Alliance will conduct battles twice daily: 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday.

Re-enactors do not stage specific battles from the war, but focus on the tactics from the period by British and colonial American troops, as well as German mercenaries and Native Americans.

"It really gives the visitors an opportunity to see living history take place," said Laura Evans, Cantigny's director of visitor services. "The re-enactors are very authentic in the way that they dress and in the way that they portray camp life in the Revolutionary War-era."

A Cantigny signature event, the re-enactment draws about 10,000 people for the weekend. History aficionados can check out an encampment without modern amenities, as well as artillery demonstrations and a parade of uniforms.

And come prepared for some jolting booms -- a crowd favorite, Evans said.

"It's very loud," Evans said. "Oh, yeah, people love the cannons."

Hess will portray a piper in the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, a role that involves building morale in the encampment set up Friday night and running through the weekend, and fighting in all of the battles.

"For anybody that's curious about the Revolutionary War, it's a really good source," Hess said. "It's not just dates and people. It's actually someone doing it and taking the time to show you what it's about."

It's also a family matter for Hess. A third generation of Hess males will participate in the re-enactment when Hess's 3-month-old son is christened after the church parade on Sunday.

That will serve as his son's real-life christening, Hess said, in an event that combines family, friends and a passion for history. Hess said he fell hard for the re-enactment life when he joined his first Northwest Territory Alliance event more than three decades ago.

"There's always something to learn," Hess said.

The re-enactment is free for spectators with a $5 parking fee. For details, call (630) 668-5161 or visit Cantigny.org.

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