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Folks blow the bejesus out of each other, 19th-century style

Today’s Battle on the Ohio-Erie Canal pits 500 Union soldiers against 300 Confederates at the bottom of a dried-up, 47-acre lake in Zoar. No, you’re not having a ’shroom-induced flashback to a past life. It’s just a Civil War re-enactment featuring a few good men . . . and women? “They actually dressed as males during the war to be with their husbands,” says Mark Gayner, captain of one of today’s troops. “One time, a [Civil War-era] wife got discovered when she was six months pregnant and couldn’t hide it any longer. They sent her home.”

Like reality television, Civil War re-enactments are tightly scripted and choreographed affairs -- right down to the fighting. But only the upper brass knows what will happen; the armed forces have no clue about the day’s outcome. “The average foot soldier follows orders,” says Gayner. The History Channel will be dropping by today’s outing at Zoar Village to shoot footage for some of its old-school war programs. “People don’t realize that the re-enactors in these movies are our friends,” says Gayner. “They’re not Hollywood stuntmen.” Meanwhile, spectators can check out weapons, uniforms, and toys from the 1800s, and walk through a makeshift field hospital, where doctors amputate various limbs -- or at least act like they do. “It can be a little graphic,” says Gayner. “Some people will walk away with a queasy feeling in their stomachs. But we don’t get to the point where we give the kids nightmares.”
Sun., Sept. 16, 10 a.m.

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