SPRING HILL — Contrary to the stealth of Union troops in 1864, the Blue and the Gray enlisted for the 37th annual Brooksville Raid Re-enactment will descend this weekend with the clatter of hooves, the percussion of musket fire and the boom of cannons.
The re-enactment will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Sand Hill Scout Reservation, where skirmishes may have been fought that July nearly 153 years ago.
While mere onlookers were likely just wee ones on those three summer days, as many as 10,000 visitors are expected each day for this year's replication, officials say.
In other contrasts: Union interlopers numbered a reported 240, disembarked from two ships making landfall at the mouth of the Anclote River, scrambling through woods and gnarly mangroves to Bayport. Re-enactors and their families this year are estimated at 1,500 strong, arriving by pickup truck, horse trailer and RV from throughout Florida and surrounding states to play roles in the largest Civil War replay in the Sunshine State.
Also, Yanks came with pillage on their minds, to destroy salt plants and a cotton warehouse at Bayport, to burn crops, drive off cattle and otherwise disrupt Florida's food sources flowing to Confederate armies farther north. The re-enactors come with pitched battle in mind.
The original soldiers of Blue were likely young and eager. Many of the Gray they encountered were certainly so.
Otherwise, authenticity is the byword, said re-enactment co-chairwomen Joan Casey, involved with the nitty-gritty, and Mary Sheldon, researcher of Civil War histories and times.
The event, sponsored by the Hernando Historical Museum Association and North Pinellas County Scout Sertoma Club, aims to keep history alive and enables hands-on immersion with the war that took more American lives on U.S. land than any other.
Re-enactors will tote in 28 cannons and 60 horses to stage mock battles each day, with both North and South to be accorded a "win." Cannons are coming from as far away as Leesburg, Ga., and as close as Bushnell. Re-enactors bring their own mounts.
"Most artillery is authentic rather than replicas," Casey said. Performers wear authentically reconstructed uniforms of wool, uncomfortably hot in these climes, she noted.
About 50 sutlers, or tradesmen, who followed the troops will replicate their roles, serving up food that enhanced standard rations and selling nonarmament supplies to soldiers.
Visitors line up for fry bread, which was most popular, too, among real-life soldiers, Casey said. Essentially handmade palm-size dough flats fried in oil over a wood-burning stove, they may be topped with fried apples "or anything."
Recent, highly appreciated sutler additions to re-enactment menus are ice cream and ices. The ice cream maker researched her subject, authenticating that it was available during the Civil War, Casey said. Among other offerings, "Root beer is made the old-fashioned way," Casey said, as much as it can be while adhering to modern-day food safety rules.
Sutlers also will hawk such wares as replica uniforms and patches, powder horns, tin cups, hopsacking aprons and ladies dresses.
Period dresses are required for attendance at a ladies tea and ball on opening day. Sutlers, too, will be attired according to the late 1800s.
The 7 lbs. of Bacon Mess Band, appearing daily, will be suitably togged, as well.
With a nod to current comfort, visitors may bring their own lawn chairs; a limited number will be available for rent for $2.