Naperville, Illinois

By Jim Young

I am not much of a history fan and definitely wouldn’t describe myself as a Civil War aficionado… I actually had to remind myself of the dates of the fighting before I went to cover a U.S. Civil War reenactment in Naperville, Illinois this month.

But as I walked up to the Naper Settlement open-air museum to photograph the event, and passed by former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln – or at least a man dressed up to look just like him – I figured I must be in the right place.

About an hour’s drive from Chicago, people were settling in for “Civil War Days,” featuring re-enacting of a battle scene from the war. Participants dressed in period costumes to fight it out as North and South and spectators came to watch.

Seeing these Civil War buffs, it was clear that they knew their history down to the smallest detail and that they took it very seriously. During the day, I watched people demonstrate the precise technique for holding their rifles, sitting around campfires singing period songs and even learned the history of military dog tags. I was sure some were so completely wrapped up in their characters that they were convinced it was still the 1800s.

One member of the group, Ron Raidy, turned out to be an executive with a Canadian airline company, who moonlights for several weekends a year to help recreate battle scenes.