Area folks to take part in reenactment
IRISH VALLEY - A single canvas tent draped over a wooden frame on the lawn of the Zielinskie residence Sunday afternoon looked a bit out of place.
When it's re-erected later this week in Gettysburg next to thousands of others similar sleeping quarters, it'll fit in just fine.
Dave Zielinskie, 53, and his 22-year-old son, Michael, will be among the 10,000 re-enactors expected to meet this week to recreate the pivotal Civil War battle on its 150th anniversary. They're planning to camp Thursday into Sunday. Michael's girlfriend, Julie Gusick, 21, of Slabtown, will join them for a night or two.
All three will dress in period garb and play the part of 1860s Americans on the side of the Confederacy - Julie in a full-length dress and Dave and Michael donning the gray cotton uniforms Southern soldiers wore; both hauling a rifle, a canteen, a food box and ammo.
"I've never looked at it as being on the losing end," Dave says in his decision as a Yankee to join the rebels. "I've always looked at it as being a part of history."
Michael described their dedication as "moderate." They'll hide any modern materials they bring to the campsite, like placing a Styrofoam cooler inside a wooden box to keep it from showing and spoiling the atmosphere at camp. They won't be among the overzealous types attempting a full-scale recreation of life on the Civil War battlefield.
"You always run into that one guy who says, 'I haven't eaten in two days. I'm trying to live like they did,'" he said.
Try as one might, he and his father agreed it's impossible to experience life as it was in that era.
"You can only pretend for so long. In the back of your mind come Sunday you know you're going home to TV, a couch, a shower," Dave said.
The Zielinskies will be among the re-enactors in the Confederate regiment 63rd Virginia Infantry, Company C, organized in 1862 out of Washington County, Virginia. That company's captain, fellow re-enactor Kevin Walker, had relatives fight in the war, Dave says.
Dave says he goes to two or three re-enactments a year, including two in Virginia - New Market and Cedar Creek. He's been at the Gettysburg re-enactment for 16 years running and portrays a sergeant in his re-enactment group. Michael has accompanied him on most of the trips, starting out as a messenger boy. He portrays a corporal now.
They'll fight alongside the re-enactors from the 42nd Mississippi Infantry. When they're not fighting, they'll wander about the tents, cook their own food, and likely hear campfire stories from descendants of Civil War soldiers. They'll also wander amongst the many visitors to the event.
Michael says it's not uncommon to be frequently stopped for photos. He figures he's tucked anonymously inside photo albums in many states across the country.
"I'm sitting in a photo book on a coffee table somewhere," he said.
His father's been in many photos, too. One of them made the cover of a period novel, "When Gauley Ran Blood."
The battle will play out like it has many times before, mirroring what actually occurred 150 years ago. When all is said and done, Dave's time will end with his unnamed character's death.
"All the time," he says of how often he "dies" at re-enactments.
"Every time," Michael confirms.
They won't leave Gettysburg, Dave says, "until I die at Pickett's Charge," a famed attack in the history-making battle.