Civil War comes alive at Cantigny
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The deep "BOOM!" of the cannons shook the leaves off the oaks and sent little hands covering little ears Saturday afternoon during a Civil War re-enactment at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.
Dozens of history enthusiasts dressed as Union and Confederate soldiers "fired" muskets at each other as they advanced across the lawn. Demonstrating drills soldiers of the period would have practiced to prepare for battle, the wool-suited men stood in firing formations as a hundred or so people rimmed the "battlefield" in this live action history lesson.
"We do it because we all want to learn more about combat, so we can understand the past," said Steve Fratt, a military history professor at Trinity International University in Bannockburn who narrated the drill as a Union colonel.
Fratt was one of 180 or so costumed volunteers who brought the Civil War era to life. The Civil War re-enactment continues Sunday.
Besides the battle demonstrations, re-enactors set up an encampment, complete with hospital tent where the doctor explained how he amputated limbs without the benefit of anesthesia, and a cook's tent where they handed out modern boxed lunches in lieu of battlefield stew.
Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, were on hand Saturday, visiting the troops and posing for pictures — of the digital, not tintype type — with visitors.
"It's not often you get your picture taken with Abe Lincoln. How cool was that?" said Levi McCulloch who visited the park with his sons Ever, 6, and Huxley, 8.
"Ever said this morning that history was boring," the Minooka dad said. "I'm on a mission to prove him wrong."
As the boys climbed on a Vietnam era M551A1 tank that's part of the Cantigny Tank Park, they didn't look bored at all.
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