Back in time

While it may not be fourscore and seven years ago, the Civil War remains one of America’s defining moments throughout its history. Avid history buffs and intrigued scholars around the area will soon have a chance to transport themselves back in time to that historic era during the upcoming “Battle of Lighthouse Point” Civil War Living History Camp and Reenactment this weekend at the Dunkirk Historic Lighthouse and Veterans Park Museum.

“The Battle of Lighthouse Point is a fictional battle because no battles really took place in Chautauqua County,” David Briska, treasurer of the Dunkirk Lighthouse Museum Board, said. “But, what it is is the Confederates have taken control of the lighthouse and they’re actually calling Niagara Mohawk a salt works. The Union soldiers are trying to take that salt works back from them.”

Briska said during the Civil War Era, salt was routinely used in the making of gunpowder. Thus, having a salt works would be important to the armies. He also said the lighthouse would be another important place to have control over because it could then be controlled which ships would be allowed to pass by.

“The battle is to regain control of the lighthouse and the salt works,” Briska said.

The reenactment festival will kick off with the raising of the garrison’s colors at 9 a.m for both the Union and the Confederate troops. At this time, the camps will be open to the public which can observe daily life and ask questions.

At 11 a.m., drill practice will begin for all units and all branches. This will continue until 1:30 p.m., when all units will assemble for safety inspections before the battle, just to ensure the weapons are clean and ready to go.

At 2 p.m., the “Battle” of Lighthouse Point will officially start with a weapons demonstration.

“I kind of like to keep the surprise element of the battles to ourselves, but we will have scenarios going all throughout both days that don’t include the battle itself,” event co-organizer Jamie Rocque said. “It will be little side scenarios going on. It will definitely be entertaining for everyone. You’re also going to hear the gunfire the entire time, not just during the weapons demonstrations.”

Rocque said the public will be involved in the reenactments as much as possible. She also said a medical tent will be included as part of the reenactment.

After the battle, another living history presentation will take place, this time featuring a court martial.

The festival will close down between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m. to allow reenactors time to eat dinner and prepare for a music concert by the famous 20th Maine/Calvert Arms Civil War Fife & Drum Corps from 7 to 9 p.m. Candlelight tours of the grounds will also take place during this time.

“During the tours, we will set up a different scene and it will kind of be like the public’s window into the past,” Rocque said. “It’s actually really neat if it’s done really well, which we’re hoping it will be.”

Briska said this will be the first time a Civil War reenactment will occur on the grounds of the lighthouse.

“In other years, we’ve done other music events and World War II reenactments,” he said.

The event will pick back up the next day, Sunday, with camps opening up at 9 a.m. A church service straight out of the Civil War Era will occur at 10:30 a.m. A social will be held after the service from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is recommended festival-goers bring a lunch for this time.

“The social will also include games that were played during the times back then,” Rocque said. “These games are a lot different from what you’d play today.”

At 1:30 p.m., another safety inspection will take place. The second “battle” of the festival will take place at 2 p.m. with another weapons demonstration. The festival will conclude with a surrender at 3 p.m.

“We will also have ham radio operators from Lancaster here, who will be talking with lighthouses from all over the world,” Briska said. “So, people will be able to go over and talk to different lighthouses and find out where they’re from and what they’re doing. We will also have a book sale and signing on Sunday for the book ‘Legendary Locals of the Chautauqua Lake Region’ by Kathleen Crocker and Jane Currie.”

Briska also said throughout the duration of the festival, a Civil War medicine display and lecture will be given by Forestville resident “Doctor” Joe Bolivard.

Rocque said at least 40 reenactors from the 64th Virginia Infantry and the Ninth New York, among others, will be present during the festival. Walk-on reenactors are more than welcome to be a part of the events, as well.

“We’re going up there on our own time. We’re not seeking any restitution for the reenactment,” she said. “We don’t want to make anything off of it.”

The reenactment festival runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. It is sponsored by the Dunkirk Historic Lighthouse and the Dunkirk Historical Society. The admission fee will be $2 each day. Refreshments will also be sold throughout both days. All of the money raised during the event will go toward the lighthouse and the historical society.

To find out more information about the reenactment festival, or to reserve a spot for the candlelight tours, please call the lighthouse at 366-5050.

Comments on this article may be sent to