Our summer didn’t go so well. In fact, we really didn’t do anything fun as a family. I think that we were all just pulled in too many directions and had such long to-do lists that we didn’t realize it until it was all over.

encampmentWe were in desperate need of some good family time before winter showed up. The perfect opportunity presented itself in the form of a homeschool field trip. So, off to VanRaalte Farm in Holland, Michigan for a Civil War re-enactment. You can find out more by clicking here.

The Civil War Battles

You may be wondering about what battles from the Civil War they could be re-enacting. Well, since the fighting during the Civil War didn’t really make it into Michigan, the re-enactors had to borrow a few.

civil war battleThe three battles chosen for the weekend were: Battle of Spotsylvania Court House & Battle of Yellow Tavern. These battles were all historic Virginia battles that took place in 1864 between the armies of General Grant and General Lee.


This battle is actually quite famous because it had the most continuous hand-to-hand fighting during the war. It lasted for 20 hours through heavy rain and produced some very high casualty numbers for both sides. General Lee’s army lost 5,000 men that day, but General Grant’s army lost 7,000. More Americans died in this battle than at Omaha Beach on D-Day, World War 2.

Battle of Yellow Tavern

civil war union armyThe Battle of Yellow Tavern took place in the spring of 1864. General Grant sent General Sheridan to conduct a raid against General Lee’s cavalry commander Major General Stuart.

The Union troops were more than double that of the Confederate troops and Major General Stuart was killed that day. Sheridan’s raid, however, was not that successful and it cost General Grant important cavalry functions at the Battle of Spotsylvania.

What Civil War Experience Could You Have?

This was an amazing free event that included:

  • Military and civilian camps, including infantry, cavalry, and artillery.
  • The live re-enactments of the battles along with an announcer giving us a play-by-play.
  • Many important figures were represented, including General Grant, General Lee, General Custer, and even President Lincoln.
  • There were a number of tradesmen who were actually selling authentic Civil War items.
  • They had a “Crafter’s Alley” which was a show for Victorian-inspired crafts.
  • There was a “Saloon” where you could get a Civil-War era lunch.
  • An authentic dance took place on Saturday night.
  • And a church service was held in the largest camp on Sunday morning.

This really was a lot of fun for all of us. My husband was even recruited by the Battery (cannons). He hasn’t made up his mind yet, but he was very interested. My son was also very interested in maybe participating one day.civil war cannons

The best part was being able to walk around and talk to the people who were “living history”. They made a point to be as authentic as possible and really knew their stuff. The re-enactors welcomed questions and loved sharing this world with us.

Abraham LincolnOne of my favorite parts of the day were the speeches made by some of the generals who were dressed up and by President Lincoln, himself. I love history and thought I knew quite a bit about this time from our past, but I still learned so much. Did you know that they had convection ovens back then?

What do you think about our Civil War field-trip? It proved that family time can be educational, too.

Please let me know in the comments below if you have ever done anything like this or if you participate in re-enactments. I would love to hear from you with any tips & tricks you might have for us.

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