Canons were fired and the silence was broken. Cavalry charged as rifle after rifle was shot. Smoke filled the air, and men from both sides fell to the ground.
The Pierce College Farm Center’s cornfield transformed into a battlefield Saturday and Sunday for “Heritage Days,” historical reenactments that observed the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.
Approximately 150 actors and community members relived the Battle of Gettysburg and the Battle of New Market for the second year in a row.
Robert McBroom, director of the Pierce College Farm Center, contacted actors who came from the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura.
“We’ve been planning this for months and months,” McBroom said.
At noon, Confederate soldiers marched into Gettysburg to meet the Union Army. Both parties hid behind trenches for protection.
Rotary International was present at the reenactment. Elizabeth Tilkian, a member, sold wristbands that gave attendees the option of viewing the battles while sitting on bleachers. All proceeds from the sales benefited End Polio Now, she said.
Ahleea Brenner, a Hale Middle School student, stood behind a yellow rope and watched soldiers fighting with sabers. She asked her father, Jeff Brenner, to take a picture of her with the action in the background.
“I’m just really exited. I’ve never been to a reenactment before,” she said. “I just learned about the Civil War, and it’s fun to see it played out.”
Mike Argabright brought his son to see the reenactment. They traveled from Lancaster and were informed about the details of the event because their friend, Larry Kraus, associate vice president of Pierce, called Argabright and told him about the event.
“[Noah] wanted to see the Union win,” Argabright said. “Last year, the Confederates won; I guess it was a different script.”
As Noah watched the battle, Argabright had to ensure him that the actors laying on the ground were not actually deceased.
After the Battle of Gettysburg concluded, William Peck, a resident of San Diego who has personified Abraham Lincoln for 31 years, delivered the Gettysburg Address at the Heritage Town Hall. He was introduced by “Hail to the Chief,” played by The Armory Band.
“It’s rather humbling when I get to teach someone about history,” Peck said.
Dr. Jon Willen and Larry Duncan, who personified “Dr. Malarkey,” narrated both battles that took place Sunday.
Duncan, a performer for 11 years, and Willen, a performer for 15 and a physician at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, provided audience members with anecdotes about the war. After Lincoln’s speech, they spoke about medicine and what amputation would have been like at the 137th Regimental Field Hospital.
“I clear the table, one of the soldiers lays down and I put him under anesthetics,” Duncan said. “My patient always dies. I go through several procedures for everyone to see.”
Adjacent from the town hall was Brodiaea’s Quality Clothing. Handmade 19th century inspired dresses, mauve bonnets with white ribbons, cloth dolls and calico undergarments that were hung on a line with wooden clothespins were available for purchase.
Nora Meza, a U. S. History teacher at Holmes Middle School, assigned her students extra credit if they attended the reenactment.
“This event is part of the California standards. This is way more fun to learn about than in the textbooks, Meza said. “If you see people with a bright yellow paper, those are my students.”
While Meza was purchasing a white lace parasol with her fiancé, Daniel Hernandez, she ran into one of her students, Marisa Mendez.
“We get 50 extra credit points toward our 20-week report card if we visit some locations and answer questions about race, class and gender,” Mendez said.
Barry Keith, a resident of West Hills, sat on a bench eating funnel cake with neighbors Donna and Rick Walker.
“This reenactment is a little smaller compared to last year. There’s fewer exhibits this time,” Keith said.
Keith decided not to stay and watch the second battle scheduled for 3 p.m.
“One battle a day is enough for me,” he said.
During and in between battles, Annette Grace, a construction office manger; Joanne Davidson, a school librarian; and Casey Bernardin, a high school student from Moorpark, portrayed wives in the encampments of the 69th Infantry Company to discuss the roles of women during the Civil War.
“It was very common for women to dress up as men and accompany their husbands to war,” Davidson said.
All three, as well as every person who performed Saturday and Sunday, provided their own costumes and transportation, and volunteered their time and paid a small fee to participate.
Grace said she enjoys dressing up and has learned to appreciate history.
“I love doing this,” said Grace. “We’re like an extended family.”