PORT TOWNSEND — Gun and cannon fire heralded a bygone era at Fort Worden throughout the weekend thanks to an area Civil War re-enactors group, part of the Washington Civil War Association.
The Company C 4th U.S. Infantry and USS Tahoma Naval Shore Party set up camp on the field at Fort Worden, where visitors could wander by for a history lesson.
“You come here with an open mind and be ready to learn a lot of stuff,” said 17-year-old Niklaus von Houck of Port Angeles.
“It’s very different from book learning. You really get to experience what things were like then.”
Von Houck has been participating in these re-enactments for two years. He was inspired to join after a family trip to Gettysburg, Pa., where he first saw participants in the 4th U.S. Infantry re-enactors group.
He soon found the local branch, based out of historic Fort Steilacoom, and joined.
“One of my passions is history,” von Houck said. “Once you get to have a hands-on experience it’s a whole new way of understanding history.”
A senior at Port Angeles High School, von Houck is one of the youngest of the group’s re-enactors but already owns roughly 10 costumes.
While many of them are from the Civil War, he also has a British Revolutionary War uniform but said his favorite is his Union Army first sergeant uniform.
“It has a red sash and is just very sharp looking,” said von Houck.
Von Houck took part Monday along with other Union solider re-enactors, showing audience members how and in what formations soldiers would fire off muskets in order to give other members of their company time to reload the cumbersome weapons.
The men stood in two lines, firing blank rounds over each other’s shoulders.
The noise gathered quite a crowd despite the cold and wet conditions Monday afternoon.
Not to be outdone, the crew of the USS Tahoma shot off cannons to the delight of most of the audience but the dismay of some of the younger audience members.
Between performances, visitors could wander the small camp, and under canvas tents, tables were piled high with Civil War era weapons and tools.
Re-enactors such as James Genovesa of Forrest Grove, Ore., were there to answer questions — explaining how Civil War era sailors navigated the seas or what sailors were issued when they came aboard.
Along with their daily activities Saturday through Monday, members of the Washington Civil War Association hosted a contra dance Saturday, which was free to the public.
According to their website, both the 4th U.S. Infantry and the USS Tahoma Naval Shore Party pay for all of their costumes and trips out-of-pocket.
They often collect donations at their events but are always looking for new members to grow their groups.
The Civil War re-enactments weren’t the only activities drawing visitors to Fort Worden over the long weekend.
Alongside the Civil War era cannons at Fort Worden were military vehicles from multiple American wars.
This was part of the Coast Artillery Museum’s annual Military Vehicle Show, where private owners could bring their restored vehicles out for the purposes of education and a bit of fun because visitors couldtake rides on some of the jeeps and troop transport vehicles.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5550, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.