Civil War Days, ways

Re-enactors work to bring a realistic battle experience along with education.

Published May 18, 2007

LARGO - The crack of muskets will echo through mid Pinellas on Saturday as Union and Confederate soldiers clash at Heritage Village.

The Skirmish, as it's officially called, is in its 24th year and it's the grand finale of Civil War Days on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

The demonstration does not represent a local historical battle. Pinellas, lacking any major ports or manufacturing centers during the era, played an insignificant role in the military strategies of the Civil War.

"Pinellas County was sparsely populated, " said Lewis Zerfas, a Clearwater area resident and member of the local re-enactment group U.S.S. Fort Henry. "What we're doing is living history of a typical Florida skirmish."

The re-enactment group is named after a converted ferry boat commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1862 to patrol the west central coast of Florida. Its members will don period uniforms and join other local re-enactment groups in a realistic Civil War battle experience.

The skirmish may be fictional, but Zerfas said the story line uses some historical places and is carefully crafted to be a realistic example of a battle that could have taken place.

"Every year I write a battle scenario, " said Zerfas, who is responsible for the details of Saturday's clash between Union and Confederate infantry.

This year's plot involves Egmont Key. The island, at the southern tip of Pinellas County, was used by both Union and Confederate forces at different times throughout the war. The Egmont Key Lighthouse, built in 1858 and used as an observation post during the war, still stands.

Residents are encouraged to attend the encounter between opposing forces and find out which side walks away from the battlefield. The 24th Annual Heritage Village Skirmish commences at 2:30 p.m.

Other events that make up Civil War Days move beyond the battle and into the hearts and homes of the people during the Civil War era.

At 1 p.m. in the Pinellas Room, Mary Fears of Daytona will tell real stories of blacks in the Civil War, gleaned from research and historical documents.

"We try to portray what life was like in Florida during that time period, " said Carol Cortright, special programs and public relations coordinator for Heritage Village

Other activities will include quilting, blacksmithing, a vintage baseball exhibition, and a performance on the bandstand by the Bay Area Fiddler's Association. Come join re-enactors and living history interpreters and be led through the rich history of the Civil War era.

"They take the historical information and bring it to life, " said Cortright.

If you go

Civil War Days

Where: Heritage Village, 11909 125th St. N., Largo

When: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost: Free admission

Parking: Free parking and shuttle will be available from 119th Street, between Ulmerton and Walsingham roads