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Fredonia history festival will bring Civil War to life

FREDONIA – Actors portraying both Union and Confederate soldiers will be among the highlights of the annual Fredonia History Days Festival on Friday and Saturday in the village square.

Jamie Rocque, who belongs to a group of Civil War re-enactors representing the 64th Virginia Infantry, is this year’s History Days events chairwoman. An enthusiastic historian, Rocque said she has arranged for actor portrayals of both Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.

“I promise they will not be camped next to each other,” she added.

Her unit, along with members of three other Civil War groups, will be camped from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning in the Barker Commons area of the Fredonia village square. Rocque said that tents will be pitched for sleeping and meals will be cooked on open fires.  

“We want people to ask questions about what life was like during the Civil War,” she said. 

Rocque has been known to portray a woman disguised as a man on the battlefield. She said it is a tribute to the number of women who fought in the Civil War and who went unrecognized.

Fredonia started this year’s historical events with a ceremony Friday honoring Alonzo H. Cushing, who died at the Battle of Gettysburg.  Cushing’s Medal of Honor, which was announced last year and was awarded posthumously to his family, will be on display Saturday.

Fife and drum music will be ongoing throughout the weekend. There will be candlelight walking tours leaving from the tourist information booth on Friday and Saturday evenings at dusk. The tours are the only event during the weekend that require a ticket. 

Attending the encampment, listening to scenarios described by historians and visiting the many historic displays is all free. 

A parade is planned for Saturday at noon and will feature an active U.S. Army unit as well as actors wearing uniforms from a variety of wars, including the War of 1812. An actor who plays President Abraham Lincoln will also participate.

There will be a tent featuring local historians and artifacts.

Another free highlight will be two slide presentations Saturday at Fredonia Baptist Church. Slides of historic Fredonia homes will be featured including one of the birthplace of Katherine Forbes Cushing, who was married to William B. Cushing, a naval hero of the Civil War and Alonzo’s younger brother.

The first slide show will be given by Wendy Straight, Doug Shepard, and their colleagues  from 10 to 10:45 a.m. and is called “The Buildings of Fredonia when the Cushing Boys Were Here (1847-1857).” 

The second slide show will be presented from 2 to 2:30 p.m. and is called, “The People of Fredonia’s Anti-slavery Movement (1840-1860).”  

Free musical entertainment is planned for both evenings and a classic car show will be held Friday. 

The event will have food and beverages available for purchase.