Civil War Re-enactment at Liendo Plantation
A number of years ago, we went to a history re-enactment at Washington Crossing in Pennsylvania. It was on the 4th of July and it was a re-enactment of the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. What a unique experience to see it come to life among all the old buildings that were actually there at the time of the first reading. It’s a memorable moment when you suddenly feel yourself connect with the past - impossible to describe, and yet, I think other history lovers probably know exactly what I’m talking about.
Liendo Plantation, located an hours drive northwest of Houston, puts on a Civil War re-enactment every year in November. On a large field, with highway 290 as a backdrop, the uniformed Union forces stand in formation on one side, alongside several cannons. On the other end of the field are the Confederate forces, some uniformed, some not. These soldiers don’t seem as organized but they do have the protection of an earthen embankment that they’ve had time to build.
As the battle begins, the Union soldiers advance in slow formation, while the Confederates dart back and forth in smaller groups. The cannons boom and we hear random spurts of gunfire. It’s a slow moving battle with very few deaths out on the field. I expect that’s the way it has to be when you have a limited number of re-enactors and the priority is to offer an impression of the way battles were fought. After about an hour worth of advance and retreat, the Union forces overrun the Confederate position and the battle is over.
Somewhere in the middle of the battle, I begin to anticipate some sort of high speed attack on horseback. Something reminiscent of the Hollywood movies I’ve seen. Of course I quickly realize that simply isn’t possible when you have to be concerned with the re-enactors' safety. They are not professional stuntmen and actors but rather history lovers who want to bring history to life for all of us watching. I absolutely appreciate the effort and time spent in doing that.
There is sometimes a drawback to taking pictures as you’re trying to watch something, but on this day it actually serves to make it clear to me that the performance should really be viewed as a series of snap shots rather than a movie. While everyone on the field moves about in seeming slow motion, it’s easy to focus on the thought that it doesn’t seem quite realistic. If you instead view the performers as simply shifting position in order to set up the next frame, that brief period of frozen time allows you a momentary view of a long ago battlefield.