A crowd gathered along the hillside at the Town Park of German Flatts on Saturday, waiting for the start of the battle sequence.
Then suddenly, cannon fire boomed across the battlefield causing spectators to jump, then laugh, as the reenactment began.
The battle between re-enactors for the Union and Confederate armies was one of the highlights for the town's Living History weekend. Organizers said they hope the three-day event will teach visitors about life during Civil War times and other times in history.
Battles took place on Saturday and Sunday and included a back and forth of cannon fire between the two sides and then gun fire between the sides, who moved their flanks along the battlefield.
During Saturday’s battle, the Union side lost many of its troops and retreated. Leaders from both sides met in the middle of the battlefield for a truce, followed by a playing of “Taps” by a trumpeter so both sides could remember their fallen.
“We cannot forget our history,” said German Flatts Town Supervisor Frank Spatto, on why the town and the Friends of the Town Park of German Flatts conduct the Living History event every year. “… We cannot let it go. It’s not just Civil War. We celebrate all history around here. There’s a touch of the Revolution, the French and Indian War, there’s the history of the canal.”
Spatto noted how the park is adjacent to the historical Fort Herkimer Church.
The event started on Friday when re-enactors set up their camp in the park. Spatto said the town had just finished clearing out the park of flooding debris on Thursday.
“After all the storms we’ve had all year, thank God we didn’t have any rain,” said Spatto.
Visitors could see the camps the re-enactors set up for the weekend, including the one set up by members of the 55th Virginia Volunteer artillery unit who represented the Confederacy.
John Rathbun, one of the Confederate re-enactors, said they have been coming to the event since it started 14 years ago.
“Hospitality,” he said, when asked why they come back ever year. He added, “And the people who travel through the camps, they ask nice questions.”
Rathbun, and fellow re-enactor Doug Hull, talked about the questions they hear the most from visitors while sitting under the canopy they set up in front of their A-tent. They said questions include if the guns they have are real, if they use live bullets and if they get paid for what they do.
Rathbun said he also gets asked why he chooses to play a Confederate.
Page 2 of 2 - “The reason is because of state rights and ancestors,” he said.
There was a memorial on Saturday at Fort Herkimer Church for fellow re-enactor Richard Rowe.
Other events scheduled for Living History weekend included fireworks on Saturday, a book signing by Alan Sterling and Nancy Cioch and a church service on Sunday.