Civil War living history returns to Willamette Mission July 4

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Stephen Holgate performs as Abraham Lincoln at the reenactment in 2013.

Stephen Holgate performs as Abraham Lincoln at the reenactment in 2013.

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Abe Lincoln will be making a return appearance at this year’s annual Civil War reenactment slated for July 4-6 at Willamette Mission Park north of Keizer.

Stephen Holgate, who has been hailed as “the best Lincoln in America,” will perform a presidential press conference at the event Saturday, July 5, at 1 p.m.

Holgate, as Lincoln, talks about the 16th president’s evolving views on race and how it motivated decisions that led to the Civil War. After his presentation, Holgate will take questions from the audience and re-enactors.

The event, open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, will offer more than six acres of living history with re-enactors in period clothing and uniforms, campsites, and character.  Battles are scheduled at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Parades kick off each day at 9 a.m.

As many as 1,000 Civil War re-enactors will present the living conditions and circumstances of the early 1860s as well as battles with artillery, infantry and cavalry.

One of the re-enactors in attendance will be Keizer’s Becca Danner. Her older sister, Faith, who is also a regular participant in regional reenactments, will be out of town for a softball tournament.

“I really like reading about the Civil War, and I finally got my parents to take me to one of the reenactments at Willamette Mission two years ago,” Becca said.

A planned one-day trip turned into two days and then into traveling to see other reenactments. Eventually, it led to Becca and Faith becoming part of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Unit.

Becca and Faith both serve dual roles. When not cross-dressing as members of the infantry, visitors might find them with the other women in the unit performing the chores of the period.

Becca, a self-professed tomboy, prefers wearing the wool and drilling with the other members of the infantry.

“It’s not as hot as you’d think, and I don’t like wearing the dresses,” she said. In Becca’s first year drilling with the infantry her rifle was nearly as tall as her.

Faith discovered she enjoyed acting required by members of the infantry.

“I really liked it and because I did, I took part in a play earlier this year,” Faith said.

Faith has also honed her skills as a seamstress making her own dresses and undergarments tailored uniquely to herself.

Neither of the girls has yet taken part in an actual battle due to their age, but Faith will get her first chance later this summer. If spotted in their male alter egos, they ask you do them a simple favor:

“Don’t tell our commanding officer,” Becca said.

In addition to battles, there will also be demonstrations presenting period medical practices each day, multiple period music demonstrations, a daily fashion show and hundreds of period tents showing a variety of activities that would be found at an 1863 military and civilian campsite. Re-enactors sleep in canvas tents when they aren’t participating in battle reenactments and military or civilian life.

There will be a Civil War-era church service on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors 55 and older and students through high school with ID. Kids under six are free. There is also a day use fee from the Park Service.

The event it a presentation of the Northwest Civil War Council. Find out more at www.nwcwc.org.

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