America's Civil War started 150 years ago this year, when Confederates attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina.
History buffs can relive the past this weekend during Virginia City's Civil War Days, a festival that includes rides on the V&T battle train, train ambushes and Civil War battles in Gold Hill, and an authentic Civil War camp in Miner's Park at the north end of town. And beginning at noon Monday, Labor Day, Virginia City hosts a parade down C Street.
Re-enactors portraying Union and Confederate soldiers engaged in battle Saturday as the V&T Train full of passengers from Virginia City had nearly arrived at its destination in Gold Hill.
"The South was trying to smuggle silver and gold to Richmond, Virginia," explained event organizer Izabella Eaves, "but the troops from Fort Churchill heard about it and came here to capture the strongbox."
Saturday's "battle" continued for about 20 minutes, with a few soldiers lying dead on the field by the end.
For Civil War re-enactors, the opportunity to step back in time offers plenty of rewards.
Lonnie Cluff, a field scout for the Union, got involved with the re-enactors through a Boy Scouts Venture Program in Sparks.
"I like history, and I enjoy the combat," Cluff said. "I like to see how accurate I can be for my character. I was originally a trapper, but I was hired as a guide to get the field units to their various destinations, especially in the West."
Cluff said his job as a field scout could be tricky, though.
"The only roads up here were horse trails, so it was my job to find the easiest passes for the guys in their wagons," he said.
Later Saturday, back at the Civil War Camp, soldiers were returning from battle.
For 15-year-old Christopher Griffin from Sparks, joining the re-enactors as a Confederate soldier was easy after he saw them in battle at last year's state fair.
"I like the battles the best, and I liked getting my uniform together. I just got online and started looking for things," he said.
By the time Christopher got it all put together, he guesses it cost him about $1,000, including his Richmond rifle.
For another young Confederate soldier, Mackenzie Wells, 15, of Virginia City, the choice to join the re-enactors was easy.
"I really like getting out there and becoming a different character, and I'm really into acting, so it's perfect," she said.
Historically, she explained, there were women on both sides of the Civil War.
"They dressed like men and would bind their chests because they wanted to be with their husbands and they wanted to support their country," Wells said.
Those wanting more information about Virginia City's Labor Day weekend events can go to www.visitvirginiacitynv.com.
The V&T Battle Train leaves - with passengers and a group of actors portraying Confederate soldiers - from the Virginia City Station at 11:20 a.m. and 3 p.m. today and is ambushed in Gold Hill right before it reaches the Gold Hill Station. Those not riding the train can watch the battles at 11:40 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. today by parking at the Gold Hill Station and walking up the gravel road to where it crosses the tracks. To visit the Civil War Camp at Miner's Park, go to Carson and F Streets. A Labor Day Parade will start at noon Monday on C Street. For details, go to www.visitvirginiacitynv.com.
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