Simulated battles, artifacts all part of Civil War Re-enactment in Bensenville
The thunderous boom of cannon fire will reverberate across Bensenville's Fischer Farm this weekend during the annual Civil War Re-enactment.
Simulated battles will unfold Saturday and Sunday, June 25 and 26, on the farmland on Grand Avenue west of York Road, said Geri Johnson, Bensenville Park District marketing director.
The farm is owned by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County and operated by the park district.
Beyond the battles, the event will feature music from the Battlefield Balladeers, children's activities and dramatic presentations by actors portraying President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist activist Sojourner Truth. Historian Brian Flora will give presentations about Illinois' role in the war at 1 p.m. both days.
Children can take part in Civil War-themed scavenger hunts, and visitors can learn about the types of candy available in the 1860s, as well as a look at how baseball was played in those days.
In its fourth year, the Civil War Re-enactment is steadily building interest, Johnson said.
"We've had several hundred people per day," she said. "It's getting larger and larger."
Taylor's Battery is an Illinois-based re-enactment group planning to participate in the event. Officially known as Company B, 1st Regiment of the Illinois Light Artillery, Taylor's Battery was a unit of the Union Army.
"We have two full-size cannons," battery member Diana Pagacz said. "We'll fire the cannons every hour, on the hour."
Cannons will fire at 11 a.m., noon, 1 and 2 p.m. both days.
There's no chance of any target actually being hit, though.
"They don't actually fire a projectile from the cannon," said Jonathan Sebastian, Fischer Farm curator. Instead, he said, gunpowder ignites paper wadding, creating a loud pop and a puff of smoke.
"We don't want anybody to get hurt. We're very safety conscious," Pagacz said.
Battery members, most of whom are men, wear authentic-looking soldiers' uniforms while they re-create skirmishes, demonstrate maneuvers and answer questions about what life was like during those wartime years. They set up an encampment and spend Saturday night on the grounds.
The active group of re-enactors currently has about 40 members. They did a presentation at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield in April, participated in Naper Settlement's Civil War Days in May and plan to be part of another Civil War Days event in Wauconda in July, Pagacz said.
In 1993, the group appeared in the feature film "Gettysburg." Pagacz said the group also has appeared in "Gods and Generals" and several other Hollywood movies.
Pagacz said she and her husband, Claude, of Elmhurst, have been Civil War re-enactors since 1985, five years before the Battery began. The draw, she said, is that these events really did happen.
"It's about history," she said. "It's addicting."
Re-enactors are pleased to answer visitors' questions and display original war artifacts and reproductions, she said.
Pagacz said she brings her collection of original cannon balls, bullets, photos and war-era currency.
Fischer Farm is the site of a nine-structure homestead that features an 1836 log house, one of the oldest structures in DuPage County, said curator Sebastian. There's also a farmhouse built in 1919 on the site.
Event visitors are welcome to explore the recently restored buildings, Sebastian said.
"I'm working to create an accredited living history museum on the property," he said.
Sebastian said the Civil War re-enactment event is an opportunity to learn and have fun.
"You learn as much as you want to learn," he said. "You can talk to a soldier and learn what life was like for a soldier. It's sort of a defining moment for our nation. Personally, I find all the stories fascinating."
Civil War Re-enactment WeekendWhen: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 25 and 26
Where: Fischer Farm, 16W680 Grand Ave., Bensenville