Relive history through Civil War enactorThe seven-member UW-River Falls History Club soon welcomes to its campus Civil War expert and re-enactor Bill Foley, from Columbus, Ohio, for a free and open-to-the-public event that will give people insight into the ‘life and times’ of soldiers and other people during the Civil War.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
The seven-member UW-River Falls History Club soon welcomes to its campus Civil War expert and re-enactor Bill Foley, from Columbus, Ohio, for a free and open-to-the-public event that will give people insight into the ‘life and times’ of soldiers and other people during the Civil War.
“It’s not just for history buffs,” clarifies club treasurer and secretary Liz Emmerich about the event and the club itself.
The Civil War re-enactor gives a presentation Wednesday, April 18, and Thursday, April 19, at two times each day: 3-5 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. at the UWRF Amphitheater.
History Professor and History Club advisor since 2007, Victoria Houseman, says she guides the students, but they do all the work.
Members raised the money needed to pay Foley’s fee and travel expenses plus the promotion and activities associated with the event.
Emmerich said Foley tells people about the typical life of a soldier serving in the Civil War -- their clothing, food, weapons. He demonstrates some aspects and dresses the part in an authentic uniform.
As a lifelong student of the Civil War, Foley brings expertise, artifacts and a chance to ask questions.
History Club members say he fires a gun, but it isn’t live ammunition -- it’s only loaded with a black-sugar blast that makes a noise.
His wife, Cresha, wears custom dresses she makes to help demonstrate a woman’s lifestyle during that era, both those at home and those serving the battlefield.
Emmerich says the event gives people a chance to do something unique and educational, as well as be outside at a time of year when that’s where most want to be.
She said the club’s activities are about having fun and learning something, usually-but-not-necessarily with a history-related theme.
Houseman agreed, “That’s what the History Club does.”
Emmerich said, “The biggest thing we usually do each year is Haunted UWRF.”
That involves people touring the campus’ haunted locations, where History Club members share the ghost stories associated with the place.
The club has attended a Renaissance Fair together, some members in costume. They also bond occasionally over bowling or a movie night.
History Club president Harlow Arndt hatched the idea to host a Civil War re-enactor and found expert Bill Foley online, according to Emmerich. She says he’d been thinking about another “big” activity and took the lead on the event once the club expressed enthusiasm for the fun-but-educational event.
With the haunted-campus event being the club’s main fundraiser, it decided to host the Civil War event without charging admission. Emmerich said members wanted it to be easy for students to attend.
The club used some money it had on hand then held a bake sale; Emmerich said the club might need to hold one more sale to cover the approximate expenses of $1,000.
“We just need about $100 and we’re set,” said the treasurer.
The students have been plastering posters in town about the re-enactor event and say they hope it raises awareness and draws a good attendance during all the showings.
Houseman has heard there is a group in Hudson that re-enacts a Wisconsin regiment’s Civil War activities, but neither she nor the students have seen a presentation like Foley offers in the immediate Midwest region.
Anyone is welcome to join the UW-River Falls History Club, says Houseman. Emmerich emphasizes that membership certainly isn’t limited to people who are history majors -- she is a psychology major, and many fellow students also follow another main subject.
Most of the members like history and just enjoy doing fun activities that also offer ‘something to learn.’
Get more information about the History Club at its UWRF-hosted web site: www.uwrf.edu/HIST/historyclub.cfm.
Read more about Foley and see other photos at his web site: www.fortheloveofhistory.com.