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Va. re-enactment to offer visitors an 'immersive experience'

CHESTERFIELD, Va. — Plans for the Bermuda Hundred 150th Anniversary have been under way since November 2013, and those involved with the event said the site will host a unique re-enactment this weekend that has not been seen in this region.

Unlike other historic re-enactments, participants from over 40 states will have the chance to dig earthworks at the site in order to make it resemble conditions like those from 1864. Site manager Jim Perdue said planning for the event began in November 2013 and construction began in January 2014. The site is set for the re-enactment, which will be held Saturday and Sunday.

Perdue said re-enactors will be setting up encampments and "looking at something 150 years later," but in this instance, they actually have the chance to build their own camps and defenses.

John Pagano, principal historian at Henricus Historical Park and lead re-enactment coordinator for the anniversary event, said between 400 and 500 re-enactors were recruited to participate in the event, which is an "immersive experience."

Chesterfield County is exclusively the site of the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, which is why the county is celebrating its 150th anniversary with an event that's "not a typical re-enactment," Pagano said. The Bermuda Hundred Campaign was an effort by President Abraham Lincoln's Union army to threaten Richmond, the Confederate capital, Pagano added. The Union army attacking Richmond from the south was led by Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler; Gen. Ulysses Grant led troops that attacked from the north. Maj. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard led Confederate troops that prevented the Union army from taking Richmond.

The re-enactment site will strive to show what siege warfare and fighting during the Civil War would have looked like in May 1864, with as much accuracy as possible. Visitors will be able see, touch, and experience what it would have been like in the midst of the battle in Chesterfield County.

The site will literally re-create, by hand and machine, Federal and Confederate lines of earthworks for living historians to occupy. Additionally, there will be a Combat Immersion Area where re-enactors will live, sleep, work and fight exactly as the soldiers would have done 150 years ago.

"We decided that we were going to take it to the furthest extreme possible and create a real 1864 living environment of soldiers and civilians," Pagano said.

The re-enactment will show soldiers in a real environment for a 48-hour period, Pagano said. Visitors will be able to see soldiers maneuver the landscape, take and hold positions, fight and see how civilians would have reacted.

"We wanted to replicate the science of fortification," Pagano said. Soldiers building their own defenses by digging into the earth was a "new system of warfare" at the time and showed the changing psychology of warfare, he said.

There will be two locations for visitors to explore, the actual immersion area and history village, which will feature various historical vendors performing demonstrations, Pagano said.

The free event, which is sponsored by the Chesterfield County Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Committee, will take place at the Clover Hill Athletic Complex on Saturday and Sunday. Re-enactments of the skirmishes will be held at 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, and at 8 a.m. Sunday, according to a press release from Chesterfield County.

Visitors can park at Clover Hill High School and ride a shuttle to the site. Shuttle runs begin at 6:45 a.m. Saturday and at 7:45 a.m. Sunday.

kjohnson@progress-index.com
 

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