Civil War reenactors re-forming their regiment this weekend
The 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment will ride again, but with a slight uniform adjustment.
The Civil War reenactors are gathering Saturday at Camp Kane in St. Charles for their first event since the COVID-19 pandemic began. While the goal is historical accuracy with their encampment, safety dictates the use of proper masks for everyone involved.
That includes the public, which is welcome to see what Civil War camps actually looked like. Up to 50 socially distanced people at a time are allowed in the park for the event, which will take place between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
"Wearing the masks is a little bit of a frustration and it feels a little wrong, but we'll get over it," said Don McArthur-Self, president of the 8th Illinois Cavalry group. "It may not look right but at this point, it's better than nothing."
McArthur-Self, who lives in Naperville and teaches history at Maine South High School in Park Ridge, became involved with the reenactment group about six years ago. He and his colleagues are getting together for the first time since December, when the nonprofit held a business meeting and elected officers.
Little did they know the pandemic would delay their gatherings from April until now. McArthur-Self said the group, which includes about 20 members from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin, had to cancel seven events, including trips to St. Louis and the Illinois cities Galesburg, Princeton and Pittsfield.
McArthur-Self admits there's a mix of excitement and nervousness about reforming the regiment this weekend because he's not sure how many members will attend. He thinks about a dozen members will participate, along with a handful of horses.
The hope is to have a cavalry ride in the park, but the main attraction will be the close-up view of camp life during the Civil War.
"I like to demonstrate the realities and talk to people about Civil War camp life and the regimental history," he said. "We'll have at least four of our horses there and ride them out. We'll do what we can but we also recognize that we're guests and we want to follow all the rules."
The 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment was formed in 1861 in St. Charles by Col. John Farnsworth and trained at Camp Kane. The regiment fought at Gettysburg and other battles, and participated in the hunt for John Wilkes Booth after Abraham Lincoln's assassination.
Saturday's event is free to the public, although donations will be accepted by the regiment and the Camp Kane Foundation to restore the location.
"It's a chance to get out and represent the history of the time," McArthur-Self said.