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Brookfield remembers civil war with conversation, cannons

Dousman Stagecoach Inn celebrates 20th annual Civil War Encampment

James Cano joins in the fun at the the 20th annual Civil War Encampment at the Dousman Stagecoach Inn on May 3. He came dressed in a Union uniform.

James Cano joins in the fun at the the 20th annual Civil War Encampment at the Dousman Stagecoach Inn on May 3. He came dressed in a Union uniform. Photo By Mary Catanese

May 6, 2014

Waukesha resident Debra Keinert knows what it's like to wonder if her son, who served in Iraq, is safe. It's partly why she feels close to women who lived through the Civil War and why she relives their history each summer with other re-enactors at events like the Dousman Stagecoach Inn's 20th annual Civil War Encampment last weekend, May 3-4.

"To have your son go off and only get a correspondence once or twice a year and to think about all the unknown graves in this country is heartbreaking," Keinert said. "The Civil War is so long ago, people forget. It's important for us to remember those who are no longer around to remember themselves. War is horrible, and we hope we don't have to repeat it."

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Keinert sat in a circle of women knitting and chatting at the inn Sunday, while nearby men readied a cannon for fire, a doctor explained surgical procedures on the front lines and families relaxed in their period-designed tents. More than 100 reeanactors participated in the event, organized by the Elmbrook Historical Society to educate local students and families.

Many of the re-enactors know each other and the war's history well, having traveled together summer after summer to different re-enactments throughout the country. The hobby can become a lifestyle.

"When you're camped out, and it's all troops around you, and you don't know what's going on out in the world, you live just like they did," said Ron Aronis of Saukville.

Aronis and his friends represent a Union battery commanded by Wisconsin native Lt. Alonzo Cushing, which was at the center of Pickett's Charge — a deadly attack by Confederates during the Battle of Gettysburg.

"You get a small feeling of what they did, and you really have a lot of respect for them," said Delafield resident Ed Marek, who participated in this year's re-enactment for the first time. "You learn the meaning of duty."

They also have fun doing it.

"The most fun without a doubt is pulling the lanyard on the cannon," Marek said. That's the part that makes the explosion.

The group helped several children do a test round of loading and firing their cannon Sunday, hoping to pass on a respect for the job.

"And remember, people are shooting at you!" one yelled as the kids cooperated to prepare a pretend shot.

While the men continued working the cannon, Keinert said she likes to remind people that women, too, had central roles in the war.

"Fifty percent of the men in this state were off fighting, and the women were left to run the state," she said. "They became teachers, ran businesses, grew the food. The men returned to a state that was running ... When you live with these clothes and the cooking, you start to understand their hardships."

Keinert just hopes in 150 years, someone else will take the time to remember the wartime sacrifices her son and her family have made, as she has done for those who came before.

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