TEMPLE — Saturday’s made-to-order spring weather combined with the lush green grass and shade trees on the rolling terrain just off Eberhardt Road made for a rousing Civil War re-enactment.
It was the sixth annual Battle of Temple Junction, sponsored by the city of Temple’s Parks and Leisure Services, and more than 100 costumed men and women recaptured the physical appearance and spirit of the war between the states.
“We’ve got weapons, cavalry, period cooking, great fashions,” said Holly Leiferman, coordinator of the three-day event. “On Friday, we had a great day — over 400 school kids free of charge. They were here for four hours learning about history.”
LeAnn Russell journeyed from Weatherford with 20 youngsters from American Heritage Girls and Trail Life USA.
“Some of our kids with period dress are camping on the grounds,” she said. “Others are staying overnight at Mother Neff State Park. The leaders and (12) chaperones love that the kids are getting to live history.”
Several of Russell’s young men were visibly excited to serve as “powder monkeys,” assistants to the uniformed officers manning the cannons.
And the theme of “living history” seemed to be the raison d’etre for most of the meticulously garbed re-enactors. As Basil Maroney, a mustachied, bearded grandfather, explained: “I’ve been involved in re-creating Civil War battles since I was 14, and I did 84 battles on 42 weekends last year.”
Pointing to his 1848 replica 12-pound mountain howitzer cannon, which cost $11,000 to custom manufacture, he said, “Each time I fire this weapon, it costs me $17 — but there’s nothing like this whole experience. It really makes history come alive.”
Maroney emphasized “It’s a family affair,” and gestured to a half-dozen costumed men, boys and women talking under a shade tree.
His extended family, “even in-laws,” have caught the re-enactment fever, and travel together — along with his cannon — to events far from their home in Pleasant Hill, La.
Last week’s rains proved providential: a complete absence of dust despite a brisk wind added to the family-friendly atmosphere. The original location, Bend of the River, was being assessed for its suitability as a future botanic garden, according to John Larsen, another coordinator for the re-enactment.
“We appreciate that we can use the Texas Early Day Tractor and Engine Association show grounds,” he said. “They have been great.”
Visitors enjoyed Civil War-era entertainment from the “Time Was” band, cheered on their favorite horses and rider in the cavalry competition and watched wide-eyed as an uber-realistic 1860s surgery demonstration unfolded beneath a medic’s canopy.
But as the forces of the North and South were marshaled to assembly on the sloped escarpment, families hurriedly found a good vantage point, and the skirmish began.
At once the 21st century was forgotten, the calm air was shattered and the ground literally shook. Five cannons boomed forth, filling the skies with thunder and smoke — and captivating the audience.
Bugler Mark Bransford, of Elgin, performing on his newly-acquired period-replica B-flat brass instrument, raised the excitement level as he sounded the traditional call to arms. The Confederacy and the Union forces, infantry and cavalry, were engaged.
After the scenario ran its course, Maroney reflected on the day. “We’ll do another battle this afternoon. This one went well.”
He ruffled the hair of his powder monkey and smiled. “Re-enactment — it’s the best hobby. If anyone comes to this and tries it just once — they’ll be hooked.”