FREMONT - War at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center isn't exactly hell. Yesterday, it was enjoyed with root beer and a little carmel-glazed popcorn.
Amid wisps of smoke from cooking fires and artillery on a crisp autumn day, the Union Army, in part led by then-Col. Rutherford B. Hayes, was able to defeat its Confederate counterparts at a re-enactment of the third battle of Winchester, Va. The presidential center hosts a Civil War re-enactment each year, timed to coincide with the former president's Oct. 4 birthday.
“It, like all of the battles we re-create here, is one in which President Hayes took a role,” said Nancy Kleinhenz, a spokeswoman for the center, which expected to have 10,000 people pass through its gates by the time the re-enactment concludes today with a service at the late president's gravesite.
The battle near Opequon Creek, which took place in the predawn hours of Sept. 19, 1864, involved 54,440 Union and Confederate forces, authorities said. Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan led Union forces. Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early led Confederate forces. There were 8,630 casualties.
The re-enactment had about 600 participants, including families of re-enactors and vendors. No casualties were reported, according to Fremont police.
In addition to the battle, there was a Civil War fashion show, period music, and vendors offering everything from leather goods to replica swords. Ms. Kleinhenz said the presidential center each year tries to expand its children's activities, this year with a puppet show.
“We always try to keep with the period,” she said. “Puppet shows were a very common form of entertainment.”
Many of the re-enactors try to learn about a specific person from the Civil War era, Ms. Kleinhenz said. They perform a lot of research and try to mirror that specific person's activities, whether he or she is a soldier, seamstress, or even President Abraham Lincoln.
President Lincoln, in this case Ralph Borror, a bus driver for Springfield Local Schools, stood outside of his white presidential tent in the mud, explaining the reprints of Civil War photographer Matthew Brady's work.
“I've got one of my pictures for you,” he said to a little girl. Mr. Borror then gave Nicole Langlois, 7, a third grader from Hilliard, Ohio, a penny.
Nicole noted the instant history lesson - “His picture is on a penny,” she said. Nicole also learned from President Lincoln that the memorial bearing his name in Washington was built on a swamp and that he was a shopkeeper in his younger days.
For Mr. Borror, 60, the best part of his presidential duties is being a walking history exhibit.
“Kids get excited about history,” he said. “I personally feel that one of the most under-stressed things is our history.”
Mr. Borror, from Holland, said he thought President Lincoln would approve of the job the current officeholder is doing. President Lincoln, like President Bush, served at a time when the nation's security was in peril.
“I think he'd be very pleased with George Bush at this point,” Mr. Borror said.
Ms. Kleinhenz said the re-enactment has a much more patriotic feeling than in the past. The center tries to make sure the re-enactors are as close to authentic as possible. This year, many took to wearing red, white, and blue ribbons on their clothing.