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Home > Magazine > History > Jackson's Civil War Muster: Biggest, Oldest in Midwest

Jackson's Civil War Muster: Biggest, Oldest in Midwest
September 09, 2009

Every late August, Jackson, Michigan, hosts the Midwest's biggest, oldest Civil War reenactment muster. It's a weekend of history-based activities for all ages and families: battles, camp life, heritage mess-halls and even a dance ball. And it's free to the public.

We went for the first time last week. It was neat to see so many people enjoying both watching and participating in this weekend of imitating a simpler way of life in a military setting. For many reenactors in the hundreds of tents set up in the "civilian camp" it looks like a much-appreciated chance to camp and socialize in a civilized if bygone way with woodfires and canvas tents, wooden folding chairs and such.

The event is held at a huge city park inside Jackson, where the Cascades, the colorful, musical waterspout displays are shown. There's a camp, a battlefield, walkways and woods, a food vending area, a flea market zone and dozens of official reenactor supply shop tents. Wander as you please.

It was neat to learn that regional Civil War reenactors often participate in several aspects and sides of this war. A family might have members who are infantry sometimes, cavalry at other events; in a Yankee regiment one weekend and a Rebel raiding party the next. I suppose it depends on how much sewing, studying and drilling they want to do.

It was also nice to see how it's such a family activity. There were dozens of kids running around, staging their own imitations of battle or historic (?) play. And lots of ladies of all ages in camp and even in uniform on occasion.

The military-style chow-line looked tempting. I wish there was a public option for something like that. They had a few big pigs turning on spits all day then tucked in.

The outfits were often darn snazzy. The ladies looked fine after the day's battle in their brilliantly colorful hoop dresses, getting ready for the ball.

The battle noise was pretty amazing. The cannons really shook the ground. I suppose in real life the noise would be doubled, however, due to sonic booms. And the cannons would certainly be rolling back from recoil. But it was all a fair bit more than fireworks could hope to be. It's shocking to think that so many young people really did line up not far across from each other and threw all that lead.

Then there were the horses thundering around. And the bands, horns and drums playing. Lots of sights and sounds! (The battle horns were my favorite.)

It's also amazing to consider that there probably are precise reenactors for every major epoch or event in history. The attention to detail that most seem to display tells of a strong appreciation for heritage of whatever type. I would think that it also rubs off in daily life, but I suppose one never knows.

So, on with the pics...

After the charge.

Shooting back...

Rally 'round the flag...

Lines of fire...

A sutler's tent

Reenacting a little shopping...

A family stroll...

Wagon tents...

A swarm of kids flies on by. (Note the realistic wagon mud. There was plenty more. A nice touch, complete with boards layed out for crossing.)

Camp life...

Chow time.


She taught him to sew then he made it all himself. (I liked seeing all the colors, tones, patterns and fabrics on display.)

Necklace made of old grandfather clock gears... (Nice bodice.)

Edgy Civil War fashion...oh yeah!

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