The happy couple celebrates their union with a kiss.
Wedding bells? Overrated. Disc jockeys and emcees? No thank you. The wedding Elenore Cota wanted was a minimalist throwback to the days of the Civil War.
“No music, no flair, just the emphasis on the vows and the union,” said Cota.
As part of Johnsburg Goes to War, commemorating 150 years since the Civil War began, two re-enactors were wed in a period, but real, ceremony in the Ski Bowl garden.
Cota and her new husband, Reginald Rattie Jr., met through mutual friends six years ago, and re-enact together in Civil War dress.
When the couple lit candles to signify their union, instead of transferring the fire to wicks on an altar, the fire was joined in a field lantern.
Heading into the world for the first time as man and wife, the pair was framed in an arch formed by Civil War guns held by their re-enactor companions.
Cota said they’d celebrate their new life the way people would have in the Civil War, “around the campfire with our friends and with a prayer for our soldiers.”
Pastor Kenny Bascom said this was his first Civil War wedding, though he's married plenty of couples. A period wedding is a rare event, he said. In the 16 years he’s re-enacted, he can only recall two other ceremonies like the one he conducted. It takes a little preparation.
“There are some different vows,” said Bascom. “There's more of an emphasis on honor and the sanctity of marriage.”
Our understanding of life in the past, including romance, is tied to artifacts made by the period's people, said Josiah Buck.
Buck was on hand with an extensive collection of Civil War artifacts, including an armory of guns from the time.
Buck said he’s been traveling with his hoard for decades and has visited 27 states.
The items on display ought to be behind glass at a museum, he said. Instead, he encourages visitors to touch and heft the items and connect with life during the war in a tactile and immediate way.
The 185 objects that Buck displays are hidden keys that open up knowledge about science, medicine, recreation and romance, he said.
Enjoying Buck’s hands-on approach to connecting with the past were Dan Neal and his young sons. They were having a go at the Civil War-era version of baseball.
The ball was a walnut wrapped in horsehair and sewn up in dark brown leather. The bat was a polished wooden dowel that looked like it fell from a backyard tree.
Neal said he and his sons were having a good time.
“I love history anyhow,” he said, “and the chance to teach them a little about history and spend some time together is great.”
Neal’s family can track their lineage to a combatant in the Battle of Antietam. His sons carry one of the soldier's family names as their shared middle name.
The ability to get close to history is what drives Greg Gallagher to re-enact. He’s been participating as a Civil War soldier for five or six years.
“It’s one way to honor what these guys did,” said Gallagher. “When you do it, live it, breathe it and wear the clothes you see how difficult it was.”
Keeping interest in history alive takes effort, said Gallagher. Seeing Civil War soldiers in uniform, firing weapons and marching gives students motivation to study their local and national history.
Gallagher said that re-enacting is a good hobby for those who enjoy camping.
“This is how I go camping now,” he said.
During the recent power outages, Gallagher took some of his Civil War gear and set up camp in his backyard.
“It's all very functional,” he said.
People who dabble in rustic trade work like sewing, knitting and candle-making will not only find kindred souls in the hobby, but a market for their crafts among other re-enactors, said Gallagher.