December 04, 2021
Family Fun

Family Fun

War wise

Reenactments bring military history to life

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It is one thing to read about the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I (WWI) and World War II (WWII) history in a book. It is quite a different experience to have that history explained in person by a passionate historian dressed as a soldier from the time period, using artifacts from the conflict. The kids might even pay attention too, when tanks, gunfire and explosions are added to the mix.

Each year there are many living history reenactments in northern Illinois that bring the story of these conflicts back to life. Area historians offer a unique look into the lives of the soldiers who fought, their equipment, hardships, the events that lead up to these wars and the consequences in the decades to follow.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of U.S. involvement in the fighting in World War I, which turned the tide of that war against the Germans. The war ended on Nov. 11, 1918, which is now remembered today as Veteran's Day to honor veterans of all conflicts. There are two WWI Illinois Centennial Commission reenactment  events planned for 2018 to mark this anniversary.

The First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton will host a commemoration event Memorial Day Monday, May 28, for the WWI Battle of Cantigny, France. The day of the event is 100 years exactly to the day that American troops where first used to fight on their own in their first offensive against the Germans.

On Veterans Day weekend in November, the Illinois Military Museum in Springfield, part of the Illinois National Guard, will host a WWI reenactment  battles and displays in its reproduction WWI trench and bunker system.

For those interested in World War II, the Rockford Midway Village Museum reenactment  Sept. 8-9, is the second largest in the country, with more than 1,100 re-enactors, massive displays of weapons, equipment and uniforms, and more than 70 WWII vehicles, including tanks. The event draws re-enactors from 40 states.

There are several good Civil War events in the area. The largest is Wauconda’s Civil War Days, June 30 and July 1.  It allows visitors to peruse the 1863 Summer Fair, meet President Lincoln and shop Civil War era vendors.

Check out this list of great reenactment, and living history events in northern Illinois through 2018.

Centennial Commemoration of the WWI Battle of Cantigny
Memorial Day Monday, May 28
10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
First Division Museum at Cantigny Park
1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton
Free with paid $5 per car parking fee.

This event will include living history displays and reenactment  of the Battle of Cantigny, France, which took place 100 years ago to the day of this event. It was the first offensive major battle that American forces fought in World War I. It had a significant impact on the life of Col. Robert R. McCormick, who renamed his family estate in Wheaton Cantigny after returning home from the war. The event includes moments of reflection with a memorial ceremony and poppy display, as well as family-friendly activities.

Civil War Experience
June 9-10
Saturday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., battle 2 p.m.
Sunday 9a.m. - 4 p.m., battle 1 p.m.
Adjacent to 600 S. State St. (Rt. 31)
At corner of Route 20 and Route 31, Elgin

Visitor parking at the Elgin Community College to the event is free, shuttles will be provided. Two buses will run on half hour intervals. If you are coming for the battles, leave enough time to wait for the shuttle. Handicap parking is onsite at the event.

The event is an immersive look at a turbulent time in American history. View reenactments of both civilian and military life during the Civil War era. Infantry drill, artillery drill, cavalry competition, vintage baseball game, and fashion show. Appearances by President Lincoln, President Jefferson Davis and various generals of the time.

Bensenville Civil War Reenactment  Weekend
June 23-24
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Fischer Farm
16W680 Grand Ave., Bensenville
Adults $5, children $2

Meet Abraham Lincoln and listen to The Battlefield Balladeers perform. There will be first-person presentations, camp tours, drills, skirmishes and the firing of the cannon will occur at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. each day. Concessions are available for purchase.

WWII Recreated Public Reenactment
June 23-24
Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Elks Page Park
7883 Lowell Park Rd., Dixon
$5 individual or $10 each car, WWII veterans free admission!

The event includes two public battles per day, camp displays, WWII vehicles, weapons demos, veteran recognition and a militaria flea market.

Wauconda Civil War Days
June 30 and July 1
Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Lakewood Forest Preserve
27277 Forest Preserve Road, Wauconda
$10 adults, $5 youth (ages 4–17) and seniors (62 and up). Children 3 and under are free. Weekend pass: $15, $7 youth and seniors.

This is the largest Civil War reenactment  in the Chicago area. In addition to the boom of cannons and the crack of rifles in the large battles, the public can wander the camps to see soldiers, civilians and tradesmen at work.

Lombard Civil War Reenactment
July 28-29
Four Seasons Park
Finley Road and 16th St., Lombard
$5 donation per person to benefit the Lombard Historical Society

Parking is available at the Main Street entrance. Handicapped parking is available on the west side at Finley Road entrance. Meet soldiers representing the North and the South. Witness skirmishes and battles. Talk to the cavalry and see their horses. Listen to Civil War era music. Learn about embalming techniques perfected during the Civil War.

Carpentersville Civil War Reenactment
Aug. 3-5
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. both days
Carpenters Park
351 Carpenters Blvd., Carpentersville
Admission is free

The Annual Carpentersville Civil War Reenactment, hosted by the Village of Carpentersville and the Carpentersville Park District, includes troops marching down Spring Street in a parade leading to the park, living history demonstrations and an afternoon battle between Union and Confederate soldiers.

Revolutionary War Reenactment  at Cantigny Park
Sept. 8-9
Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Cantigny Park
1S151 Winfield Rd., Wheaton
Free admission included in $10 parking fee to enter the park.

Colonial history comes alive at the event that has been held every year at Cantigny since 1987. More than 400 Revolutionary War living history re-enactors will be on site. Visitors are invited to stroll through the authentic encampment and witness how civilians and soldiers lived in the late-1700s. Redcoats and American patriots will converge on the Cantigny Parade Field twice each day to engage in mock battles complete with cannon and musket fire. The skirmishes are narrated from the sidelines to help spectators understand the action.

World War II Days Reenactment  Weekend
Sept. 8-9
Saturday 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. (battles at 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., USO show starts at 8 p.m.)
Sunday 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. (battles at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.)
Dellwood Park
Route 171 and Woods Drive, Lockport

This event includes Allied and Axis encampments, WWII vehicles, 1940s music and dancing, and a USO-style dance starting at 8 p.m. Saturday.

WWII Days at Midway Village Museum
Sept. 22-23
Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Midway Village Museum
6799 Guilford Road, Rockford
$14 adults, $12 veterans and active duty military personnel, $8 child (ages 3-17), infants (ages 0-2) free.

This is one of the largest World War II reenactment  events in the United States. There are more than 1,100 uniformed re-enactors from 40 states representing soldiers from the United States, Great Britain, France, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Japan, Italy and Germany. The event draws about 70 WWII vehicles, including tanks, half-tracks and other 1940s era military vehicles. The event has a large militaria vendor area. The museum has 25 historic buildings that form a village, and each has elaborate 1940s displays inside. The Main Street of the village is used as a French town where skits and skirmishes take place throughout the day.  Encampments of Allied and Axis troops are located in the village and in the adjacent woods, some of which include entrenchments. Battles take place in a woods battlefield and on a main battlefield, where tanks and professional pyrotechnics are the highlight. There is a Behind The Lines tour on Friday, Sept. 21, 5 – 8 p.m.

Revolutionary War Reenactment  at Dollinger Farm
Oct. 13-14
10 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.
7420 E. Hansel Road, Channahon
Adult $8, Child $6

Travel back to 1775, when the 13 colonies were fighting for their independence from Great Britain.  Smell the campfires as you meander through the town and visit the people of the time.  See how they lived, dressed and prepared for war. The event is held at on a large pumpkin farm, which includes many children's activities in addition to the reenactment .

Civil War Reenactment  at Dollinger Farm
Oct. 20-21
10 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.
7420 E. Hansel Road, Channahon
Adult $8, Child $6

This Civil War event located southwest of Joliet has grown to become one of the largest in the state. It features more than 500 re-enactors, living history encampments and a chance to meet President Lincoln and many generals from both the North and the South. The event is held at on a large pumpkin farm, which includes many children's activities in addition to the reenactment .

Illinois Military Museum WWI Great War Encampment
Saturday, Nov. 10
Illinois State Military Museum
1301 N MaCarthur Blvd, Springfield
(217) 761-3910

This WWI reenactment  event will include displays in the reproduction WWI trench at the museum, camp displays, several presentations inside the museum and battle reenactments. The museum also has some great displays of artifacts and dioramas showing explaining the history of the Illinois National Guard.

Christmas in the Trenches - The story of the 1914 Christmas Truce
Saturday, Dec. 8
10-11:30 a.m.
Rockford Midway Village Museum
$10 per person, pre-registration required by 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, by calling (815) 397-9112.

Spectators can watch from bleachers as the story of the 1914 Christmas truce is re-enacted during a 45 minute presentation with about 50 World War I re-enactors portraying French, British and German soldiers. The event 150 yards of reproduction WWI trenches created by volunteers that include sleeping bunkers with stoves that are decorated for the season and will; be filled with displays of what soldiers' lives were like during the war. The public can tour the trenches and interact with the re-enactors following the presentation. They will be offered coffee and hot chocolate to warm up and given a souvenir WWI postcard.