On Saturday, June 22, visitors to the First Baptist Church of Palos Verdes in Rolling Hills Estates might feel as if they’ve traveled back in time to a veritable Civil War camp with soldiers leaning over iron kettles, or perhaps shining up a well-used Dragoon saber.
In reality, Pastor Richard Holt and fellow Civil War aficionados will be staging a reenactment of life for the average Civil War soldier. Holt is a member of the American Civil War Society. And he'll be joined by infantry members of the 71st Pennsylvania and the 10th New York Zouaves for the event in commemoration of “Juneteeth."
Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, celebrates the June 19, 1865 arrival of General Gordon Granger who rode into Galveston, Texas with the announcement the Civil War was over and slaves throughout the United States were free. As Texas was the most remote of the slave states, the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation was not enforced there.
Today, 45 states observe Juneteenth as a state holiday.
Pastor Holt said the American Civil War Society, a family oriented organization, is the largest Civil War reenacting association in Southern California.
Its members have passionately researched our country’s history from 1861 to 1865 to give the public an accurate and detailed portrayal of a complex time.
“We consider our reenactments to be living history," said Holt, a history buff who has been participating in the recreations for about 20 years.
There’s a lot of misconceptions about the Civil War, according to Holt such as people thinking soldiers were illiterate. Holt said Civil War soldiers actually had lending libraries with access to hundreds of books.
From 2000 to 2010, Holt performed the role of a Civil War chaplain for the ACWS, but due to his real-life commitments as pastor in Rolling Hills Estates, he had to cut back.
The constructed Civil War Camp at First Baptist Church will be available to visitors Saturday, June 22, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will display authentic-looking military living conditions. Tents, uniforms, weapons, personal gear and cookery will be portrayed with utmost care given to the minutest components.
The “Juneteenth” event will be followed on Sunday with an outdoor period church service at 11 a.m. presenting hymns from the civil war era and costumed re-enactors, visitors and church members.
Guests are invited to find a grassy spot under the trees while Pastor Holt preaches out of an 1865 pulpit Bible.
Additionally, local equestrian riders with their mounts are encouraged to step off the trail that runs in back of the church and join the service.
Holt said the civil war weekends, typically scheduled for Father's Day weekend, have become a favorite for many in the community.
Elliot Codding, a special education history teacher, who has the rank of Captain said he wears an officer’s uniform with a sword and pistol. He also carries an infield rifle to add to the bona fide essence of the era.
“Some of the re-enactors will be in Confederate uniforms,” said Codding, who like many members has a passion for getting history right. “We have to represent both sides of history to tell the story. We want to make sure we answer questions about what life was like so we don’t make the same mistakes.”
Want to go?
First Baptist Church of Palos Verdes
28 Moccasin Lane
Rolling Hills Estates, CA
Saturday, Civil War Camp 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, Period Church Service, 11 a.m.