News Column

Explosive History: Civil War's Siege of Petersburg Re-enactment Coming to Chehalis

July 8, 2014

By Kyle Spurr, The Chronicle, Centralia, Wash.

July 08--Hundreds of Civil War re-enactors, dressed in Union or Confederate uniforms, will use farm fields outside Chehalis this weekend to replay key battles in the Siege of Petersburg.

The re-enactment, hosted by the Veterans Memorial Museum, will honor the 150th anniversary of the siege, which started in June 1864.

During the siege, Union forces dug a mine underneath the Confederate trenches, according to historians. The mine was filled with explosives and detonated on July 30, 1864, causing a military debacle when the Union troops ran into the crater rather than going around it.

To re-enact the crater event, Veterans Memorial Museum Director Chip Duncan said, the museum is working with Entertainment Fireworks Inc. near Maytown.

"They have five major explosions that will go off at once," Duncan said. "And we have equipment that will actually explode and go into pieces as well. It will look like the Siege of Petersburg."

About 1,3000 re-enactors from the the Washington Civil War Association along with the Northwest Civil War Council, of Oregon, will set up military and civilian camps on a 70-acre field at 313 Tune Road, just outside the veterans museum. There are four battles scheduled this weekend, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Those in attendance will be able to watch the battles unfold and learn about life in the 1860s from the living historians, Duncan said.

"It's not like anything anyone has been able to see in the state of Washington," Duncan said.

The Civil War re-enactments in Chehalis started four years ago when W.F. West High School history teacher Rob Sande suggested it for the 150th anniversary of the war.

The re-enactments have grown each year, Duncan said, since the living history groups believe the fields in Chehalis are the most historically accurate.

"They think this is the best field in all of Washington to do re-enactments in because of all the terrain and spectators can sit on the edge and get a birds eye view," Duncan said.

Plans for next year's re-enactment are already underway and will focus on the Confederates surrender in 1865.

To prepare for the re-enactment this weekend, Boy Scout Troop 373, of Chehalis, will help with grounds preparation Tuesday through Friday by moving firewood and hay bales, helping Duncan with event props and setting up the parking area. The boy scouts will help with parking, ground maintenance, clean-up and garbage removal during the re-enactment on Saturday and Sunday.

Duncan said the boy scouts involvement will be a good opportunity to share Civil War history with the younger generation.

"They are really excited about it," Duncan said. "They get to wander through the encampments and learn more about the Civil War. It's a great fit for us to have them come out and help."


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Source: Chronicle, The (Centralia, WA)

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