Bringing Fort Hartsuff back to life, 67 Civil War re-enactors from Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa gathered this past weekend, April 13-14, to portray Fort McPherson in 1867. In this semi-immersive event, re-enactors lived, ate and slept like 19th century Union soldiers and civilians to offer visitors an accurate representation of military life post-Civil War. Superintendent Jim Domeier of Fort Hartsuff reported approximately 530 visitors for the weekend— a great turnout despite the cold, wet weather.
“I was very pleased with attendance and the number of re-enactors we had for this kind of weather. The grounds were a bit sloppy, but the event turned out good,” said Domeier.
Seven re-enactment units participated in this Spring Muster event, which is typically held in April to commemorate the outbreak of the American Civil War on April 12, 1861. Soldiers, children and ladies occupied Fort Hartsuff’s parade grounds, barracks and quarters to carry out day-to-day activities such as fatigue duties, roll calls, mess call, sick call, mail call, infantry drills, cannon firing, civilian activities, etc.
Re-enactor Dean Thompson of the Pettit’s Battery Unit out of Hastings spoke about the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle, one of the event’s most exciting features. “It was one of the most popular rifles used during the Civil War,” said Thompson. “It was light and mobile enough that the cavalry used it. It was originally a rifled gun, deadly accurate to about a mile and a quarter— one of the best guns that the Union ever had. Southern boys loved to capture these. They received a bounty for every one they captured.”
Even with only 8 ounces of black powder used for each demonstration, the cannon packed a powerful punch—a boom that wowed and awed spectators each and every time. Jan and Dale Wood from Chambers, Nebraska brought their granddaughter and grandson to see this living history event. Granddaughter Ryann Haburchak said with a big smile: “I think Fort Hartsuff is really cool. The cannon was really cool! It’s loud, but it was really neat to see the flames come out.”
At the far side of the fort, Randy Beaton of the Freedom Pathfinders Unit portrayed George Towar, a Civil War surgeon. Beaton laid out his collection of antique surgical tools for all to see. Visitors could not help but cringe at the gruesome assortment of knives, saws, bullet forceps, needles and pliers.
Finally, representing the women at the Spring Muster, Jan Ferguson from Lincoln has been a Civil War reenactor for many years: “It’s really neat to see the history and the things you don’t realize. I’ve learned so much since I started doing this, especially the women’s role.” For example, Ferguson explained that a woman could not wear her hair down because it belonged to her husband. Women had to wear their hair up with a hat because it was for their husbands’ eyes only.
With the re-enactment season starting up again, keep a look out for more living history opportunities throughout the state. To contact Fort Hartsuff, please call (308) 346-4715.
Jenny Nguyen is a public information officer with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission stationed in Norfolk. She also is a regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Contact her at 402-992-0731 or email@example.com.