Get ready for cannon fire, cavalry charges and all the trappings of historic warfare, because the Battle of Snoqualmie is coming to Meadowbrook Farm, the weekend of Aug. 29 and 30.
The Battle of Snoqualmie is a historic re-enactment by the Washington Civil War Association. The event is open to the public.
Dan Rike, of Bellevue, a member of the association since 1997 and Federal Sergeant Major of the Union Battalion, said the group chose Snoqualmie for their event because they wanted a larger population to come out and see it. They want to help educate people on that turbulent time in America’s history.
“At the events themselves we set up period-correct camps where they portray military and civilian camps,” Rike said.
“We stay in tents and live there the whole weekend.”
The period-correct setting is evoked not only through battles but in scenes with medics and civilians.
“It’s like going to Disneyland, it brings it to life,” Rike said.
According to Rike, the Washington Civil War Association has more than 1,000 members and about 400 to 600 people who show up for each event. Rike said that in Spokane, they got about 3,000 audience members per day and one of their biggest events ever was in 2001 at Marymoor Park, where they had 5,000 to 10,000 people watching.
“The more people out there, the more fun it is,” Rike said.
Rike got into reenactments not because of family history, but just because he was interested in the strategy and community aspects.
“The reason transitions over time. I wanted to get into the chess game of the battles; as time has gone on I became the Federal Sergeant Major,” Rike said. “I like horses, camping, and I like history. I’ve always been intrigued by this.”
Carnan Bergren, Chief of Infantry for the Confederate Battalion, has been doing reenactments for more than 17 years. For him, it started out as a way to learn more about the past and his heritage. It eventually became an event for some father-son bonding and eventually, his grandson has joined in, too.
He first went to a reenactment near Leavenworth and became engaged in the event because of his ancestry in the Civil War. But now he says he takes part in the reenactments for two reasons.
“First, enriching my knowledge of the civil war and finding out there is so much more to it than what we get in school,” Bergren said. “The second is the friendship and camaraderie. I have my family, my friends and it gives us a bond there, as well.”
Reenactments like the ones done by the Washington Civil War Association put a lot of importance on being faithful to the time period and using period-correct clothing and equipment. Uniforms can be bought online, but association seamstresses can make uniforms for the soldiers as well.
“Everything we have on is authentic. They are researched, copied from the real uniforms.” Bergren said. “They are made to that standard, they even go as far as to get the same materials.”
The Civil War era uniforms do lose some of the conveniences of modern clothing, so not everyone uses fully accurate uniforms. Rike gave the example of pockets; the original uniforms don’t have them, yet there are some commercially available that are made with pockets for reenactments.
“The more authentic your clothes are, the more you will be giving up these comforts,” Rike said.
Some groups take authenticity very seriously, Rike said. A group like The Campaigners makes sure that everything is as authentic as possible, down to the stitching.
Despite the intensity of some participants, Rike wants people to know that anyone is welcome and they are always glad when new people join the event. Many people have family ties back to the Civil War era but that is not a requirement to take part in the reenactment.
“Thirty to 50 percent of people have heritage on one side or the other, so they want to portray that,” Rike said. “Some people just want to have fun and others just ask ‘Where am I needed?’”
Bergren said getting started is as easy as showing up to an event and asking to join. The event organizers can set you up with all the gear and clothes you need, right there.
“A person can sign up for the weekend for free, which allows them to get on the field,” Bergren said. “All you need to do is sign a liability waiver.”
The weekend of a reenactment is important for Rike. He gets to ride horses, camp with family and friends and teach people about the history of this country.
“I think it brings history alive to people,” he said. “It’s the type of hobby that really pulls you out of your routine.”
Battles are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday, and the living history demonstrations run throughout the day. Event hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Admission is cash only and the cost is $10 for adults, $7 for military service people, $5 for children ages 10 to 7 and free for children younger than 10.
For more information, visit http://battleofsnoqualmie.com.
Dan Rike, acting as a sergeant major of the Union army, rides in a Civil War battle re-enactment.