Civil War Reenactments

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

Larry Meiller visits with two members of the Muskets & Memories Civil War Era Committee in Boscobel, Wisconsin, about how they research and plan for Civil War reenactments.

Featured in this Show

  • Boscobel Civil War Reenactments Aim To Educate Public, Honor Veterans

    The Muskets & Memories Civil War Era Reenactment Committee in Boscobel, Wis., holds Civil War reenactments not just to educate the public, but to also honor the veterans and events that were necessary “to make America the country that it is today,” according to group’s director Marie Leifeit.

    Because the reenactors are often portraying real people, there is a strong commitment to accuracy. Leifeit — who in addition to heading the committee, also plays civilian and combat roles in events — said that the Internet didn’t exist when she started 22 years ago, but since then it has become a valuable research tool. She finds her fellow reenactors a great resource, too.

    “We’re not only reenactors, we’re educators,” said Leifeit. “We’re more than willing to share every tidbit of information and knowledge that we have.”

    Reenactor Keegan Campbell agreed.

    “The biggest way that I research them is by walking up to other reenactors and asking, ‘Hey, is this authentic? What did they do back then?’” he said.

    Campbell is a student at Fennimore High School and has been reenacting for six years. He portrays both a cavalryman and an artilleryman in the events.

    Leifeit said that the reenactments aren’t just of battles. They also portray life on the home front, and activities of the soldiers when they weren’t engaged in fighting. Reenactment events include medical demonstrations, farming, beekeeping, broom-making and more.

    Lest people think that reenactments are staid and boring, Leifeit told a story of one character she was asked to portray for a school presentation: “They asked for … a ‘fallen woman,’” she said.

    After the teacher who was organizing the visit got word that perhaps that wasn’t the best choice for middle schoolers, Leifeit had to switch her character on short notice. Wanting to find something equally intriguing, she chose Elizabeth Van Lew — a Union spy who lived in Richmond, Virginia. Because of her reputation for mental instability, she was called “Crazy Bet.” She shrewdly used that, and her family’s standing in society, to gain access to places to eavesdrop on conversations.

    “(Van Lew’s) story is just absolutely fascinating,” said Leifeit. “She’s just a very fun character to portray.”

    The Muskets & Memories Civil War Era Reenactment Committee is hosting their annual Civil War Era Weekend Aug. 1-3. The event is at Kronshage Park in Boscobel; information is available on their website.

    Editor’s Note: For more information on Elizabeth Van Lew and her spy activity, listen to Larry Meiller’s interview with author Jennifer Chiaverini, whose book “The Spymistress” recounts Van Lew’s adventures.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Marie Leifeit Guest
  • Keegan Campbell Guest

Related Stories