The eyes of the world were on a small town in Pennsylvania during the first week of July 1863. Last week thousands of re-enactors and tens of thousands of spectators gathered to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Just as Ohio sent hundreds of men to fight at Gettysburg in 1863, large numbers of Ohio re-enactors and history buffs made the trip down Interstate 70 last week for the anniversary of this key battle. Planners expected numbers of re-enactors to nearly match the numbers of actual combatants.
Clark County residents were in a variety of spots at the event including merchants, medics, security, infantry, cannon crew and spectators.
Four members of the First Mad River Light Artillery left their Revolutionary war cannon and tri-corner hats behind to join the 4th Indiana Artillery in the 100 cannon Union line. They took part in multiple battles re-enactments.
Two Enon residents were in the midst of the event all week.
Keith “Kacey” and Kathy Crager have been looking forward to the Gettysburg 150th since they opened their online business, K & K Mercantile in 2006. Their business specializes in custom reproduction Civil War uniforms and civilian clothing for men and women, in addition to custom leather and accoutrement work.
At Gettysburg, the Cragers set up a large white canvas tent in settlers’ row, a large merchant area that is open to thousands of re-enactors and spectators.
I was lucky they had time to return my call.
“We have been blessed with good weather. This was costly, a major expense to get here, and we hope that by setting up our wares for sale that we will get it back,” said Kathy Crager.
Assisting them is Fritz Kannik of Kannik’s Korner, another Springfield-based business that caters to the needs to historical re-enactors. Kannik and his wife Kathleen specialize in “authentic, documented historic clothing patterns for the living history, museum and theatrical costumer.”
On the phone, Kathy told me about climbing to the top of a small hill and looking over the whole valley where the re-enactment was taking place.
Re-enactments, she explained, cannot take place on the actual battlefields in the national park, so they are set up on nearby private farms. She could see cars, bumper to bumper on every road heading in that direction.
Every field was full of parked cars. She was amazed by the size of the crowd and the number of foreign tourists who came to America to see this re-enactment.
“We just met a lovely couple from Spain who were telling us how popular historical re-enactments are in Europe,” Kathy said.
In addition to meeting people from all over the world, Kacey was also excited about his interview with a major news magazine.
The Cragers met through their common interest in the Civil War. She was making a quilt to honor her late husband who enjoyed Civil War history and met Kacey Crager who was with a Federal re-enacting unit. They were married a few months later in a lovely Civil War Era wedding. K & K Mercantile was soon to follow.
Kacey said that the reason he re-enacts is because he couldn’t serve in the military. Re-enacting is his way of honoring all of those who have served. He sees re-enacting as a living tribute to these people who fought and lost their lives.
In addition to sewing up a historical storm, the Cragers also purchase slightly used Civil War clothing and accoutrements. They enjoy helping new re-enactors get an affordable start in the hobby which has been so good to them.
Visit www.kandkmercantile.com and www.kannikskorner.com for more information.