Sitting around a campfire listening to stories is a pretty good way pass a summer evening.
A few stories, to be told by park rangers about how Civil War soldiers lived during the war, will wrap up the first day of a Labor Day weekend event at the Fredericksburg Battlefield.
“Whenever you’re sitting around a campfire, it a good venue for telling stories,” said Park Ranger Peter Maugle.
The campfire chat will show battlefield visitors how soldiers lived through war and camp life, Maugle said.
“We’re going to talk about how the different senses—sight, sound, smell, feel and even taste would have been experienced by the soldiers of the Civil War,” Maugle said. “We’ll talk about everything from the smoke of the battle to what the soldiers ate and tasted as ways to understand the Civil War.”
The event, which will run Saturday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., will offer visitors the chance to learn of a Civil War soldier’s experience at the battleground.
Re-enactors will be encamped at Marye’s Heights demonstrating life at the battlefield to show the kind of equipment, weapons and uniforms Civil War soldiers would have used 155 years ago during a little noted battle.
In December 1862, the Union Army unsuccessfully attacked Confederate positions at the Stone Wall at Marye’s Heights. The second fight at Marye’s Heights in May 1863, went to the Union, Maugle said.
“We’re going to talk about what’s actually known as the Second Battle of Fredericksburg,” Maugle said. “A lot of people aren’t familiar with it. It’s when the Union Army actually won. They actually captured the Stone Wall—unlike what they did in the December battle, which was a huge failure for the Union.”
Breaking through the wall allowed Union troops to meet the objective of getting to the main fighting about a dozen miles away.
“The Confederates were up there. They had the high ground,” Maugle said. “They were kind of dug in and the Union Army was trying to push them out and capture that spot. They failed and failed until the Second Battle of Fredericksburg when they captured it. The main thing is, the Union Army was able to capture the stone wall and then move out toward Chancellorsville where the other battle was going on.”
The re-enactors will also show how Civil War soldiers deployed and fought.
“On Saturday and Sunday, throughout the day, we’re going to have the re-enactors’ musket firing demonstrations. They’re going to be doing some marching maneuvers,” Maugle said of the re-enactors.
Musket firing demonstrations will be at 11 a.m., and 2 and 4 p.m. on Saturday. Sunday’s musket demonstrations will be at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Visitors might also get recruited to learn a bit about marching, Maugle said.
“We’re going to try to make it interactive. There’ll be one part of this where the visitors will actually be lined up and marched around for a first-hand experience of how that worked. It’ll be kind of neat,” Maugle said.
Re-enactors portraying civilians will also be at the Innis House, which was used by Confederate sharpshooters facing Union attacks during the battles, Maugle said.
“We have civilians. We have the Innis House, which is a period structure that was there during battle. It’s got damage on it. It’s got bullet holes,” Maugle said. “They’re going to be in the house telling people about how the citizens of Fredericksburg dealt with and how they were affected by the battle and the war.”
Maugle said visiting with the re-enactors is a good, easy way to pick up a little history.
“We always make sure we get really good re-enactors for these things because they’ve got to be ready to talk to the public and specifically tell stories,” Maugle said. “The emphasis is on the story we’re telling.”
All of the family-friendly programs, including the campfire stories are free, Maugle said.
“The campfire program especially will be kid-friendly and open to anybody who wants to come,” Maugle said.
Parking will be available at the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center at 1013 Lafayette Blvd.
For additional information, call 540/693-3200, or check nps.gov/frsp.