Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Civil War battle fought in New Jersey

Yes, you read that correctly. A Civil War battle was fought in New Jersey. Granted, it was 13 years after the war had actually ended, but thousands of the Blue and Gray took to a field in Wantage to, once again, take arms. This time, of course, there was no ammunition and no bloodshed. It was the first Civil War reenactment in history.

Civil War reenactment site
Site of the Deckertown reenactment.
No doubt the McMansion is a more recent addition.
Major General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, a Sussex county native, invited veterans of both sides and their families to his Deckertown property for four days of festivities in August 1878, and over 40,000 arrived. The battle reenactment on the final day included cannon fire that could be heard up to 20 miles away.

It's interesting that Kilpatrick arranged the gathering, because he had quite the reputation during the war itself. Known for aggression and bluster, he wasn't well regarded within the army because he was said to work his troops ragged. However, he might have gained some popularity from the reenactment, where a reported 10,000 barrels of beer were on hand for the participants. Did this guy know how to throw a party, or what?

Looking at his history, it seems that maybe he realized he needed to do a thing or two to make some friends. It doesn't appear to have worked, at least not with voters. He made an unsuccessful run for U.S. Congress in 1880 after having lost the 1865 election for the governorship of New Jersey. However, his loyalty to the Republican party garnered him two stints as ambassador to Chile, where he ultimately died in 1881.

Today there's little more than a historical marker along the roadside next to the stand-in battlefield. I wonder -- would reenactors today want to camp there?

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