logo


no avatar

Battle re-enactments are just the beginning at Van Raalte Farm Civil War Muster

By Sarah Heth/The Holland Sentinel • Sep 15, 2017 at 1:00 PM

HOLLAND — Smoke-filled explosions. Musket-wielding men on horseback. Women in long dresses and children playing 200-year-old games.

These sights and sounds — and many more — will fill Van Raalte Farm this weekend for the annual Civil War Muster.

“I think the people, most of the spectators would say the best part of the event is the actual battle engagement,” said Rick Veenhoven, chairman of the Van Raalte Farm Civil War Muster. “I would personally say from the moment that you walk in until the moment you leave, it’s a full itinerary of history, and you can take in and absorb as much or as little as you want.”

The weekend will begin today (Friday, Sept. 15) with education day, when only eighth-graders and their teachers will be allowed on the premises for the event.

“That is when they really take a focus on the American Civil War from an academic standpoint in their curriculum,” Veenhoven said.

Saturday and Sunday, the public is invited to the annual event that has grown every year since its inception in 2008.

In total, organizers expect about 3,000 to 3,500 people during the whole weekend.

The main events are battle re-enactments taking place at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Each year, organizers choose a different battle to act out for the visitors. This year, it will be the Battle of Antietam — a turning point in the Civil War.

“Although the battle itself was perhaps considered a draw from a tactical standpoint, strategically it was a Union victory because Lincoln used it in order to finally be able to have something encouraging, at least in that point in the war from a battle engagement standpoint, and then used that time to announce the Emancipation Proclamation,” Veenhoven said. “Now, it wasn’t effective until Jan. 1 of 1863 — but nonetheless, it was important that he was able to announce it, and he used that opportunity to do so.”

The Emancipation Proclamation was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln that changed the federal legal status of the enslaved people in the designated areas of the South from slave to free.

The battle took place Sept. 17, 1862, making this Sunday the 155th anniversary.

To make the re-enactment more accurate, organizers moved dirt and planted corn to make the topography match as closely as possible to the actual events.

“Two of the important parts of the important parts of the Battle of Antietam were known as the cornfield and also the sunken road, which after the battle became known as Bloody Lane,” Veenhoven said. “We actually are going to be doing some excavating to make it more realistic.”

Afterward, everything will be put back the way it was. But for the event, he said it will add to the authenticity.

“More realism, more authenticity,” Veenhoven said. “So the re-enactors can re-enact those two segments of the battle. They’re probably the two most-known pieces of that battle on that day.”

Organizers hope to send the visitors back in time, setting the scene with people in costume, bands playing period music, vendors, and games that match the time period and more.

“Particularly at this site, at Van Raalte Farm,” he said. “It’s pristine for doing this type of event, because there’s no commercialism that’s visible. When you go there, you go back to a time period.”

Holland American Legion Band members will perform before the battles and throughout the weekend, playing music from the 1860s. Children’s activities will be provided, sharing old-fashioned games they may have never played before. An authentic camp tavern will be on hand, with Founders beers available for purchase.

There will be demonstrations throughout the weekend, teaching people about life during the time of the Civil War.

“Al McGeehan, our past mayor, will be displaying authentic Civil War artifacts and give a presentation on our local boys who participated in the 25th Michigan K-Company,” Veenhoven said. “These were young men that lived here in Holland and in Ottawa County. Many of their descendants are living in this city today.”

There also will be a church service Sunday morning.

Many new and returning re-enactors will be on hand, dressed and giving speeches as Lincoln, generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and more.

“These impressionists, they go all over the country. Not only do they highly resemble them in their appearance, but they’re highly educated on the character, and of course they’re in character the whole time,” Veenhoven said.

New this year, the Van Raalte Farm Civil War muster partnered with the City of Holland and the Holland Museum to open the farm house.

“This year, also, the house will be open for the first time,” Veenhoven said. “The home will be open for tours on the main floor. There actually will be some of the original furniture and artifacts of the Van Raalte family that was in that home.”

The event is free to the public Saturday and Sunday. Van Raalte Farm is at 1076 E. 16th St. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

If you go

Saturday, Sept. 16

9 a.m. Camps Open

10 a.m. Military Drill (Union at Battlefield, Confederates on Van Raalte House Lawn)

10 a.m. 1st Holland Regimental Volunteer Band

10:45 a.m. Union generals speak on the War

10:45 a.m. Presidents speak on the War

11 a.m. Activities for Kids in Civilian Camp

11 a.m. Al Mc Geehan with Civil War Display (Rear of Van Raalte House)

11 a.m. Medical Demonstration in Union Camp

11:30 a.m. Confederate Generals speak on War

12-1:40 p.m. Van Raalte House Tours

Noon 1st Holland Regimental Volunteer Band

1 p.m. Soldier's Speed Shooting Competition

1:30 p.m. 1st Holland Regimental Volunteer Band on Battlefield

2 p.m. Battle Re-enactment: Battle of the Cornfield and the Battle of the Sunken Road/Bloody Lane- Antietam

3 p.m. Medical Demonstration in Union Camp

5 p.m. Dinner for Re-enactors at Red Barn

7 p.m. Ball at Red Barn

9 p.m. Camps Close

9:30 p.m. Last Bus Shuttle

Sunday, Sept. 17

9 a.m. Camps Open

9:30 a.m. 1st Holland Regimental Volunteer Band

10 a.m. 1860s Period Church Service

10 a.m. Lake Effect Choir performance during Church Service

‚Äč10 a.m. 1860s Period Church Service

10:45 a.m. to noon Civil War Concert - Lake Effect Choir

11 a.m. Military Drill (Union on Van Raalte House Lawn, Confederates on Battlefield)

11 a.m. Activities for Kids in Civilian Camp

11 a.m. Civil War Sword and Combat Demonstrations

11 a.m. to 1:40 p.m. Van Raalte House Tours

Noon Union generals speak on the war

Noon 1st Holland Regimental Volunteer Band

1 p.m. Confederate generals speak on the war

1:30 p.m. 1st Holland Regimental Volunteer Band on Battlefield Hill

2 p.m. Battle Re-enactment: Battle of the Cornfield and the Battle of the Sunken Road/Bloody Lane - Antietam

3 p.m. Medical Demonstration in Union Cam

3 p.m. Civil War Sword and Combat Demonstrations

4 p.m. Camps Close

5 p.m. Last Bus Shuttle

Recommended for You