The Civil War lived on earlier this month at the Wolcott Mill Metropark in Michigan's Macomb County when living history enthusiasts gathered to recreate the part of the Siege of Petersburg, a series of battles around Petersburg, Virginia.
The 22nd annual Wolcott Mill Civil War Days saw dozens of re-enactors staging a full weekend of events, including setting up military and civilian camps peopled by re-enactors in period dress, activities like touring the park's historic mill, candle dipping, cooking over open fires, market bazaars and candle light tours, culminating in the re-enactment of a specific Civil War battle each day.
We visited the park with the Motor City Camera Club in order to shoot some images and learn a bit more about daily life in the 1860s by talking with the knowledgeable re-enactors at this living history event.
This year, Union Army re-enactors portrayed the 16th Michigan in the September 30, 1864 assault on Confederate re-enactors portraying General Hood's Texas Brigade in a scenario resulting in a Union victory and the death of the Confederate General John Gregg.
The 4th Texas Company E, or Lone Star Guard, is a volunteer group portraying soldiers and civilians from the Civil War. Most of its members are from southeast Michigan, although some of them also come from southern Canada and other places in the Midwest. The group is part of the Multi-Lakes Association for Civil War Studies and organizes the event at Wolcott Mill in conjunction with the Huron-Clinton Metroparks.
Each year, the Wolcott Mills Civil War Days event focuses on a specific Civil War battle, determined by the calendar and whether the proposed battle fits the topography of the park.
Check out this site for short video clips of the featured battles in 2012 (the Battle of Shepherdstown in Maryland) and 2013 (a battle in Chattanooga, Tennessee that resulted in a Union victory that sent the Confederate forces out of Tennessee and into Georgia).
The Civil War re-enactments are partly campouts, family reunions and a chance to become part of a living history experience.
Events like the one at Wolcott are smaller in scale than some of the re-enactments staged on some of the historic Civil War battlefields, but this year's event seemed larger than we remembered it being when we attended it six years ago.
There is also plenty to see at the 2,625-acre Wolcott Mill Metropark the rest of the year.
The park's Historic Center features one of the few remaining grist and feed mills, along with a barn museum with displays of antique farming equipment. The mill, two nearby barns and the mill pond are part of the National Register of Historic Places.
The park also has a 250-acre working farm where visitors can check out farm animals like goats, horses, and farm fowl and see the farm cows during a 10 a.m. milking each day.
Wolcott Mill Metropark also has plenty of trails for hiking or horseback riding through the woods and meadows along the Clinton River.
Interested in learning more about the history of Michigan's Macomb County? Check out Past and Present of Macomb County, Michigan: Primary Source Edition by Robert F. Eldredge.
Curious about becoming a Civil War re-enactor? Check out The Little Book of Civil War Reenacting by William J. Watson.
© Dominique King 2014 All rights reserved