PLATTSBURGH - The tradition of commemorating the Civil War reaches a monumental anniversary this year, and it's one Matthew Hewson is looking forward to marking.
The West Chazy historical re-enactor and his father, fellow history buff Wayne Hewson, are the father-son duo once again overseeing the annual event this weekend on the grounds of the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base off Washington Road. The two-day, free admission event - hosted by the Clinton County Historical Association, 11th New York Battery Light Artillery and Alexandria Battery CSA - has taken some extra planning this year to commemorate the start of a war that divided the nation, said Hewson.
"This year has been similar to past years in the way we went about planning the event. However, this year being the 150th anniversary, we wanted to go with a summer of 1861 theme and try to depict a good deal of early war scenes if we could," said Hewson.
This year's event will focus on the first year of the Civil War and the events leading up to the first battle of Manassas, Va. The battles, said Hewson, will depict small unit actions that occurred in the month preceding Manassas.
Those attending this year's event can expect to see re-enactors portraying troops and civilians from both sides of the Union and Confederate conflict, said Hewson.
"Over the course of the weekend visitors will be able to see, smell, touch and if they are lucky, or brave enough, taste what the Civil War was like in the summer of 1861," he said.
The weekend will consist of three battles that will depict the skirmishes that broke out across the border regions between the North and South in the early months of the war, said Hewson. In addition to battles, visitors to the event will have the opportunity to see infantry drills, cannon firing demonstrations, and speak with re-enactors about local units and their history.
"We look forward every year to bringing history to life in Plattsburgh," said Hewson, "and we hope folks come down and experience it with us."
Hewson said the draw to the Civil War encampment year after year is the ability for spectators to get a glimpse of what life was like during a time when America was a nation divided against itself. The event, he added, is meant to give people a "newfound respect for the men who fought and died 150 years ago in the Civil War."
"We really love putting this event on and are so very thankful for the support we have had in past years from the Clinton County Historical Association, the re-enactors, the public and everyone involved," said Hewson. "We hope that the event will continue to grow in the coming years and continue to provide the community with a valuable opportunity to become better acquainted with a piece of local history."
"We can never control the weather and we have our fingers crossed, but if the weather does not cooperate we hope folks will throw on the rain gear and come have some fun with us learning about history anyway," added Hewson.
The weekend's activities will begin Saturday, May 14, at 9 a.m. with the opening of the camps, followed by the first battle at 11 a.m. Demonstrations will continue throughout the day, including cannon demos at 1:30 p.m. and a second battle at 3:30 p.m. Camps will close for the day at 5 p.m.
On Sunday, May 15, camps will reopen at 9 a.m. with cannon demonstrations at 10 a.m. The final battle will take place at 1 p.m., with the event wrapping up at 2 p.m.