The comforting sounds of a fiddle banjo filled Huntington Beach Central Park on Saturday morning, but they were soon replaced with the noise of gunshots from black-powder rifles and the moans of dying men.
The Huntington Beach Historical Society transformed the wooded area tucked behind the library into a Civil War battleground and campsite. More than 800 history buffs dressed in Union, Confederate or civilian clothing from the era congregated in the park for a weekend of reenactments.
Rodger and Debbie Gulledge, of Orange, said they are well-versed in the hobby.
Their interest was piqued when the couple watched a Civil War reenactment in Calico nine years ago. Debbie, a history buff, fell in love with it, she said. The two now participate in about eight events a year. Debbie, 56, gets her fill of history information and Rodger, 60, gets to shoot guns from that era.
Rodger, donning a Confederate uniform, added that dressing up and firing black-powder rifles are fun, and he appreciates the camaraderie at the events.
"It's a great group of people with common interests," he said.
Central Park took on the appearance of a Confederate state during the war. Sweat dripped off beards as the men felt the heat under layers of clothing, including thick cotton coats. The women donned period-appropriate dresses and carried parasols to shade themselves from the sun.
Historical society Vice President Darrell Rivers, 22, of Huntington Beach, is a bit of a stickler when it comes to accuracy, having been a historical consultant for various TV shows. He used the phrase "farbs," or far be it from authentic, when describing those who weren't dressed accurately.
"This hobby is very self-correcting," he said. "If you have a group of people within that function, you at least have somebody that will tell you that something isn't right. There are a fair share of farbs around here, but you won't see many on the field."
Rivers said the battles re-created throughout the weekend showcased the techniques used by the military during the Civil War rather than targeting a specific event.
The historical society has organized the event since 1993, when it was staged behind the Newland House at Bartlett Park with only 50 people, according to Rivers. More people started attending the reenactments each year, and by 1998, the event relocated to Central Park.
Attendees could get a sense of what it felt like living in the 1800s as they walked through the Union and Confederate campsites. Those who took the reenactment seriously camped overnight at Central Park since Friday and, for the most part, used only the amenities that would have been available at that time, Rivers said.
One could find a Union general smoking a hand-rolled cigarette while a meal prepared over a fire was handed out to those on the Confederate side.
A dose of reality was forced upon participants when masses of people armed with digital cameras snapped photos and a group of reenactors had a debate over the old television show "Gilligan's Island."
James Neushul, a major with the U.S. Marines, could be found a
t the Union campsite among a group of new recruits receiving instructions on turning and marching commands.
He came to the event at the request of his 15-year-old son, who wanted to participate. Neushul, 47, recently returned to his home in Carlsbad from deployment in Saudi Arabia.
"It's different from the Marine Corps because it's a lot less strict, but it's fantastic," he said. "There's the extra detail to authenticity, which is exciting. It's a good way for everyone to learn history and to see what was going on."