Westfield hosts annual Cavalry encampment

WESTFIELD – The opening rounds of gunfire sounded as the Union crept around the McClurg Mansion, preparing themselves for battle against the Confederacy. But the South wasn’t fooled as they spotted the North coming.

The initiation from the two sides began. The battled erupted.

Standing Ground: A Civil War Reenactment in Westfield began Friday at Moore Park, downtown Westfield, as soldiers from both sides prepared their grounds, pitching tents and making fires. Once the two were settled, the battles took place – one Saturday morning and one in the afternoon. Crowds watched along the battle lines as the two sides engaged.

The Confederacy came out the victors in the afternoon demonstration as the two sides made their way around the grounds of the park firing at one another. Members of the 9th New York Calvary took part in the battle with additional appearances from other groups.

Several people taking part in the Civil War demonstration have reenacted for many years, including Jeremy Yeoman, a sharpshooter of the Confederacy. As a marksman, he has reenacted for 18 years, recently taking part in last Augusts’ Battle for Lighthouse Point.

Justin Niles, also a member of the confederacy, has fired muskets in reenactments for 18 years. Niles explained the reenactment that the on-lookers saw to be what really happened during the years of the Civil War.

“The historical context of this reenactment is a typical skirmish between the Union and the Confederacy, and the small tactics,” Niles said. “That’s pretty much the majority of the battles fought during the Civil War and the interactions that happened. Obviously, we’re limited on space and it would be spread out a little more with the units on each side being a little bigger that what we’re using today. But the battles tactics that we were using were used in the war.”

Niles has traveled across the county taking part in reenactments, including the Battle of Nashville, the Battle of Franklin, and the Battle of Shiloh along with the numerous local of events.

“Originally when I started, it was the typical gunfire noise and the smoke,” Niles said. “As I grew older, I grew into the hobby and the history.”

Josh Densmore, a Lakewood native, just got into reenacting over a year ago. Over that year, Densmore took part in a notable battle reenactment – the 150th Gettysburg Civil War Reenactment.

“I’ve always loved the history of the Civil War,” Densmore said. “The events and the history of the Civil War are infatuating to me.”

Events at Moore Park concluded Saturday evening with candlelight tours. Tours inside the McClurg Mansion, home to the Chautauqua County Historical Society, were given throughout the day, showing the historical relevance of Chautauqua County during the 1800s. Curator John Wolfe told stories about the furnishings and fine art that have been gathered from around the county.

Today, a morning church service at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church will kick off the happenings at the park at 11 o’clock. A demonstration will take place at 1:30 p.m. and the closing of camp takes place at 4 p.m., concluding the Civil War reenactment at Moore Park.

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