1860s culture, lifestyle displayed at weekend Civil War encampment
Capt. Jim Phillips sits on a green log looking down the hill.
The golden dappled sunlight glows through the trees like a distant lamp.
He, with five of his Confederates, sits for 20 minutes, looking for Union soldiers snaking through the trees below.
The silence in the woods is deafening, except for the distant singing of birds. Pvt. Chandler Fountain, 17, relays a message from his father at the bottom of the hill to Capt. Phillips at the top.
“At least 20 of ‘em comin,’” Fountain whispers.
Minutes later, a raucous blast rouses leaves and branches about the muzzle of a rifle. It’s a Civil War battle 150 years too late and uniquely north — at Deerfield County Park, 2425 W. Remus Road, six miles west of Mount Pleasant. Of course, no actual Civil War battles were fought in Michigan. This battle was an unscripted, unscheduled part of the weekend events at the park. A self-described “bushwhack,” it was the equivalent of kids setting rules and playing war games until dark. The men played until the sun went down and gun smoke hung in the air like fog.
A group of young adults played a hole of disc golf below the hill as the Confederates waited to ambush. Later, a family walking through the park trail forced the battle to a halt.
“Hold! Hold your fire! We got civilians,” John Loyd said.
The battle continued. Loyd fired a shot toward the Union soldiers.
“You missed,” said a Union voice.
The Civil War reenactment was hosted by the 10th Michigan Infantry Regiment, which were also the Union soldiers and campers. The Confederates were of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry Regiment.
Civil War actors camped at the park all weekend. Visitors walked through the campsites, asking questions about the time period, the war and lifestyles of that time. The actors play cards, sing songs, wear clothing and sleep in tents decorated with items all from the time period.
Tony Osterberg, a lieutenant in the 2nd Kentucky, has been a part of the reenactments for 17 years. He said he also has reenacted in some French and Indian War, World War II and War of 1812 battles.
“After I got out of the army following the Gulf War, I missed the flare of the military,” Osterberg said.
His mother suggested he go to Hastings, Mich., where the 2nd Kentucky is based and consider joining. He took his wife and three of his four children there. A colonel in the 2nd Kentucky signed him and his wife Jackie.
The 2nd Kentucky does about one reenactment a month.
“We gave our modern equipment to our kids,” Osterberg said. “The Coleman stoves, tents, all that. It all went to them.”
Osterberg shuffles Civil War era cards in his hands as a group of others sing with the playing of a guitar in the distance. A group of curious visitors watch and listen.
“I enjoy the camping, the night life,” Osterberg said. “Once my wife and I picked up the equipment and started doing this, we haven’t looked back.”
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