NEGAUNEE– In the 21st century Dan Chozczyk is a blacksmith, but he’s also one the 1860s.
“Well we show how a traveling blacksmith would set up camp and in this situation in this situation we would have been following the union army.” Chozczyk and his wife have gone to great lengths to create the camp they’re spending the day at. He created all the equipment they’re using to smith, cook, clean and stay warm. And he’s not the only one living in the era.
“Who they were, the lifestyles, how they lived, what they wore, where they slept, how they ate, the equipment that they used at the time. Bongard of Battery D Michigan’s Light Artillery, “We just want to bring that alive for people.”
Bongard and his crew not only spend the day in a realistic camp, but are also capable of firing their recreated 1860’s cannon.
This may not be as glamorous as other acting jobs. However, according to reenactors, it offers unmatched authenticity. “We try and be as authentic as possible,” Bongard said, “like my uniform is made out of wool, and it’s the correct weight and number of stitchings.”
To master this authenticity, Bongard says they prepare for Iron ore and the Civil War for most of the year, spending hours drilling.It takes that kind of practice to get reenactment right.
“We have to know the material that we’re dealing with, the time frame,” Chozczyk, “what would it have been like to live in this time period and then do our best to depict what we’re doing with equipment that fits.”
Ultimately this hard work pays off for the reenactors.
“We enjoy passing on what we’ve learned and when I was young I didn’t really appreciate history as much as I do now, so this is a good way to introduce living history,” said Chozczyk, “it makes it more enjoyable and it seems to me the children enjoy history more when they can see it instead of read it.”
And even honor those who served in this conflict.
“Men and women who participated, it’s very important to us that they’re memory isn’t lost, that they’re sacrifice isn’t lost, Bongard said, hoping “that who they were and what they were isn’t lost to history.”