Civil War reenactment draws crowd with realism
Natural Bridge an ‘awesome’ show for spectators
Mar 3, 2013
Jordan Culver – Democrat staff writer
Jay Welch is used to hearing the boom of cannon fire every year at the Natural Bridge Historic State Park, but he still flinches.
It’s hard to blame him. More than 1,000 attendees came out for the park’s 36th annual reenactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge. Everyone gasped, flinched or screamed once the cannons drowned out the calming drums and flutes from the Confederate and Union soldiers.
Families held each other tight. Friends shared nervous laughter as they tried not to look scared. Dog owners whispered reassurances to thoroughly frightened pets once the cannons blasted. Welch, a North Florida Community College professor, continued in his role as the leader of Union forces.
“This is pretty loud,” Welch said. “Especially with a lot of people who haven’t been to a lot of reenactment battles. The cannons will really surprise them. Most of the cannons we have out here aren’t full-scale either.”
The latest reenactment of the second-largest Civil War battle in Florida went off without a hitch Sunday afternoon, which was good news to first-time park manager Rob Lacy.
He manages several historic state park locations throughout Tallahassee and said Sunday’s reenactment was his first time viewing the Battle of Natural Bridge.
Park officials learned from last year’s battle, which was hindered by some poor visibility of the soldiers on the historic battlefield. This year the entire scene was rotated slightly so audience members in the bleachers could see the battle — which ended with the defeat of Union forces — in its entirety.
Once the smoke settled, spectators left the battle site. Lacy said the show, which consists of more than 200 Union and Confederate soldiers, was “awesome.”
“The artillery is impressive,” he said about hearing the canon fire. “When cannons go off, you really feel it. I think the crowd reacted whenever that happened.”
As always, the event also served as a history lesson for interested families and students. Yuanyuan Xing, an international exchange student from China to Florida State, said the reenactment was a fresh experience for her.
Dan Tarter, who frequently travels with his family to war reenactments, said Sunday’s event was one of the top he’s ever seen. It was also his first time watching the battle.
“It was very good,” he added. “I’ve been to about three or four reenactments so far and this is one of the best. Obviously it all sounded very realistic and it had some great percussion to it.”
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