The remembrance of the 150th anniversary of the first shots of the Civil War at Ft. Sumter, S.C., underway until April 17 will give rise to a host of reenactments throughout the nation until 2015, although you're unlikely to see one on a National Park Service battlefield. That's because policy usually prohibits battle reenactments on NPS land, so the redux will more than likely be on a nearby field.
Still, there are plenty of engagements to watch. Many battles have two names because the North named skirmishes after the nearest body of water (Bull Run), and the South named conflicts after the nearest town ( Manassas). Most sesquicentennial events will be scheduled for the weekend closest to the battle's anniversary date.
Here are five reenactments set for this year and next, chosen for their significance to the war.
Gettysburg was a crucial defeat in 1863 that forced Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to retreat to Virginia after losing more than a third of his troops. Gettysburg will host special sesquicentennial events the next four years, with the largest turnout expected in 2013. This summer, 3,000 to 4,000 reenactors and 20,000 spectators are expected.
Recommended airport: Baltimore Washington International ( BWI), 61 miles from Gettysburg
Info: Gettysburg National Military Park, (717) 334-1124, Ext. 8023, http://www.nps.gov/gett
Gettysburg Foundation, http://www.gettysburgfoundation.org
Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau-150, http://www.gettysburg.travel/150
Battle of First Manassas/Bull Run, Va.
Manassas/Bull Run in Virginia, the first major battle of the Civil War, on July 21, 1861. Northern civilians from Washington, D.C., brought picnic lunches to watch the battle, expecting the South to be quickly defeated. Instead, the Confederates prevailed.
Next year, the Battle of Second Manassas (Aug. 28-30, 1862), which the South also won, will be reenacted.
Recommended airport: Dulles International Airport (IAD), 18 miles from Manassas
Info: Manassas National Battlefield Park, (703) 361-1339, http://www.nps.gov/mana
Prince William County/Manassas Visitor's Bureau-150th Civil War Manassas/Bull Run, http://www.manassasbullrun.com
Battle of Cedar Creek/Belle Grove, Va.
Oct. 15 and 16
The Union prevailed at the Battle of Cedar Creek on Oct. 19, 1864. (This reenactment occurs on the actual battlefield because the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, not the U.S. government, owns the land.) The 150th in 2014 is expected to be a big event.
In May, the foundation and the town of Strasburg are re-creating Stonewall Jackson's Great Train Raid (where Confederates stole a Union train) in 1861 on May 27-29.
Recommended airport: Washington Dulles, about 60 miles from Cedar Creek
Info: Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, http://www.nps.gov/cebe
Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, http://www.cedarcreekbattlefield.org
Strasburg's Great Train Raid, http://www.greattrainraid.com.
Battle of Shiloh, Tenn.
March 31 and April 1, 2012
Reenactments: April 6 and 7, 2012
Shiloh National Military Park includes the battlefields of Shiloh and Corinth (where a noted Civil War interpretive center is located). "Bloody Shiloh" was fought April 6 and 7, 1862. There were more than 23,700 casualties (13,047 Union, 10,699 Confederates); despite heavy losses, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant prevailed after receiving reinforcements.
Woody Harrell of the military park says that two groups are planning competing reenactments, but that the NPS doesn't take sides.
Tom Doss and the Armies of Tennessee staged the 140th and 145th anniversary reenactments; they plan to march 22 miles from Corinth, Miss., to Shiloh. Mark Way of the Blue-Gray Alliance says his group plans to display a replica of the Hunley submarine in honor of Confederate crewmember Lt. George Dixon, who was wounded at Shiloh (www.angelfire.com/ms2/grantshilohvicksburg/shiloh.html).
Harrell says the park service will begin its Shiloh commemoration at 5 a.m. April 6, 2012, when the battle actually started.
Closest airport: Memphis International Airport (MEM), about 89 miles from Corinth and 110 miles from Shiloh
Info: Shiloh National Military Park (which includes Corinth Battlefield) (731) 689-5696, http://www.nps.gov/shil
Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, (662) 287-9273
Hardin County Tourism, (731) 925-8181, http://www.tourhardincounty.org
Corinth Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, (800) 748-9048, http://www.corinth.net
The Armies of Tennessee, http://www.armiesoftennessee.com
Battle of Raymond, Miss.
Oct. 19-21, 2012
Grant defeated Confederate Gen. John Gregg in Raymond on May 12, 1863, during his Vicksburg campaign to control access to the Mississippi River.
Closest airport: Jackson-Evers International Airport (JAN), 21 miles from Raymond
Info: Friends of Raymond, (601) 201-1632, http://www.friendsofraymond.org
For NPS events, see http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/civwar150.html