Sunday, April 29, 2012


The annual Heritage Days Civil War Historical Reenactment took place at the Pierce College Farm Center in Woodland Hills, California on Saturday and Sunday, April 28th and 29th.  On each day, a few hundred soldiers in blue or grey stormed the battlefield at noon and again at three, each time followed by President Lincoln presenting his Gettysburg Address. 

The battle itself involved several cannons on both sides, and soldiers armed with rifle and pistol.  Much of the Union Army was behind a breastwork that offered some protection, whereas the majority of Confederate soldiers were in the open, and officers of both sides were on horseback.  There were bleachers sponsored by a fraternal group, and plenty of standing room along the lines of skirmish.  The hundreds of observers who packed the place were mostly family groups, photographers and, to my surprise, teenaged high school students who seemed genuinely excited at the event.

As both sides advanced, each trying to outflank the other, the cannon and long-gun fire continued, and a stretcher was rushed onto the field to retrieve a wounded soldier.  Observers near the temporary medic station were startled to see blood gushing from an open wound, and soon after, he was laid aside with his face covered, his hands folded across his chest.  A twin barrage of rifle-fire from both sides abruptly littered the battlefield with bodies, and brought even the most gabby observer to a gasping silence.

This being the third reenactment I’ve attended, I am again struck that the soldiers taking part often look much more like Matthew Brady’s photographs than the actors in Civil War movies do.  The reason is that these soldiers, like the genuine ones, didn’t have their uniforms issued en masse from Western Costume, but assembled them and had them sewn from patterns.  They don’t all match perfectly, and they take note of the fact that there was a vast difference in uniform design from regiment to regiment.

In addition to the battlefield, tent encampments were full of era-attired civilians, some demonstrating arts and crafts to passers-by, others more passively presenting a visible history lesson.  Beyond the encampments, tented shops sold clothes, uniforms, books, and food of the period.  Many a girl tried on her first hoop skirt; many a boy pleaded for a Springfield Rifle with an orange tip, and a kepi, blue or grey.  My favorite overheard exchange was at a stall where a man in his early twenties was buying four books, and also wanted to know, “What is the Gettysburg map?”

“It’s a map of Gettysburg.”

“Is that a city?”

Gettysburg.  Like the Gettysburg Address.”

“Wait a second,” he said, fumbling out a pen.  “Is that a web address?”

I know, I know, but I’m cutting the guy some slack.  At least he’s buying four books: hopefully he’ll learn about Gettysburg from them.

Speaking of books, author David H. Jones was there with his book, TWO BROTHERS, ONE NORTH, ONE SOUTH, a novel based on the true story of the Prentiss brothers, who were divided by the War Between the States, and met in the battlefield.  It’s available in hardback and trade paperback as well as an audiobook.  You can learn more at    

Last year there was only a representative of the Sons Of Confederate Veterans, but this year there was also a representative of the Sons of Union Veterans of The Civil War. 

Among the displays by representatives of Civil War-related museums was a contingent from Fort Tejon, near Frazier Park.  I’ve detailed in the Round-up that with California’s financial woes, combined with the state’s financial incompetence, many sites of great historical value are endangered, and listed for closure.  While Los Encinos Park and Santa Susanna Pass Park have been saved by generous and undisclosed donors, many more are still threatened, including Will Roger Park, Pio Pico State Historic Park (home of the last Mexican Governor of California) and now Fort Tejon.  John Harman, a volunteer at Fort Tejon for fourteen years, told me some of the history behind the fort.  “The Fort was established in 1854, initially garrisoned by various companies of the First Regiment of United States Dragoons…the Dragoons being a mounted force, but also trained on various weapons, including the mountain howitzer.  At the beginning of the Civil War, the first Regiment of Dragoons was re-designated the First Cavalry.”  

Among the historical events coming up at the Fort is a Dragoon-era period program on the first Saturday of every month – the next one is May 5th.  There is a Civil War Battle weekend on May 19th and 20th.  He went on to tell me, “At this time, the park is scheduled to be closed at the end of the fiscal year, on June 30th.”  If you would like to find out more about Fort Tejon, to visit, or to help in the fight to save the Fort and other historically important places on the chopping block, please visit  Incidentally, the Pierce College Farm Center is also said to be in danger of closing.

Also present were representatives from THE DRUM BARRACKS, in Wilmington, California, the last remaining Civil War era military facility in the Los Angeles area.  Built in 1862, with 22 buildings on sixty acres, the Drum Barracks is the last remaining building, and houses the museum.  You can learn more, and enjoy an on-line tour by going to  There’s a link there that features a great run-down of Civil War-related events all over Southern California.

One of the most striking elements of events like these is the realization that you are surrounded by so many people with a great passion and knowledge of history.  I was on the way back to my car when I spotted a young Union soldier walking my way.  I asked his name.  “Bridger Zadina.  Over the weekend, Corporal Bridger Zadina.” I asked him if he’d been involved in reenactments before.  “I’ve been doing it for about five years now.  It’s been a heckuva five years.  I’ve always been interested in history, and I’ve always had the desire to feel closer to my ancestors, and the struggles they’d gone through.  And I feel that by partaking in this, I can….educate the public about what happened before.  Seeing soldiers on a field; it’s not something you can get out of a book.  This summer I went to First Manassas, in Virginia, where there were 7,000 re-enactors in the field: that was a grand old time!  I actually got to fight in the same regiment – the 2nd Mississippi – same company as my family, the Brookshires, did.  It was quite an experience.  A little intense.  A little crazy.”  I asked him how old he was.  He said eighteen: he’s been taking part in reenactments since he was 12 or 13.  I bet even then, he knew what Gettysburg was.    


Back in November of 2011 I started following ‘WESTERN X’.  By far one of the most ambitious webisode productions I’ve seen, WESTERN X, the creation of Michael Flores, is available online through Youtube and ITunes, and tells its story in six to ten minute ‘bites’. Chapter #8 is now available, and I believe the whole will be fifteen chapters. Shot in striking desert locations and Western towns, its hero is named X because he awakens after a beating, not knowing where, or who, he is.
Overall the chapters are elegantly produced, with eerie music, striking editing and often beautiful photography. But they’re heavy on atmosphere and light on plot – there’s a lot going on at times, but while I assume it will all become clear down the line, at times, much of it is incomprehensible. But it’s certainly worth a peek. Here’s the official website link:  That page has links to all the chapters.


Daily horse shows and an equestrian musical showcase on May 5th.  At the Los Angeles Equestrian Center,  818-842-8444.


On Saturday, May 5th, The Autry will present, at noon, a double-bill of Gene Autry Westerns: DOWN MEXICO WAY(1941) and THE BIG SOMBRERO (1949).


Celebrating California life in the mid-19th century with music, dance, food, crafts, reenactors, presentations by local historians, and hands-on activities.  Heritage Hill Historical Park.  949-923-2230.


More and more, classic TV Westerns are available all over the TV universe, but they tend to be on small networks that are easy to miss. Of course, ENCORE WESTERNS is the best continuous source of such programming, and has been for years. Currently they run LAWMAN, WAGON TRAIN, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, LAREDO, RAWHIDE, GUNSMOKE, THE REBEL, and MARSHALL DILLON, which is the syndication title for the original half-hour GUNSMOKE.

RFD-TV is currently showing THE ROY ROGERS SHOW, first at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Pacific Time, then repeated several times a week. They show a Roy feature every Tuesday as well, with repeats -- check your local listings.

INSP-TVshows THE BIG VALLEY Monday through Saturday, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE seven days a week, DR. QUINN: MEDICINE WOMAN on weekdays, and BONANZA on Saturdays.

WHT runs DANIEL BOONE on weekdays from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., Pacific Time, and on Saturdays they run two episodes of BAT MASTERSON. They often show western films on the weekend, but the schedule is sporadic.

TVLAND has dropped GUNSMOKE after all these years, but still shows four episodes of BONANZA every weekday.

For those of you who watch TV with an antenna, there are at least a couple of channels that exist between the standard numbers – largely unavailable on cable or satellite systems – that provide Western fare. ANTENNA TVis currently running RIN TIN TIN, HERE COME THE BRIDES, and IRON HORSE.

Another ‘in between’ outfit, ME-TV, which stands for Memorable Entertainment TV, runs a wide collection: BIG VALLEY, BONANZA, BRANDED, DANIEL BOONE, GUNS OF WILL SONNETT, GUNSMOKE, MARSHALL DILLON,RAWHIDE, THE RIFLEMAN, THE REBEL, and WILD WILD WEST.Some of these channels are hard to track down, but if they show what you’ve been missing, it’s worth the search.


Built by cowboy actor, singer, baseball and TV entrepeneur Gene Autry, and designed by the Disney Imagineering team, the Autry is a world-class museum housing a fascinating collection of items related to the fact, fiction, film, history and art of the American West. In addition to their permenant galleries (to which new items are frequently added), they have temporary shows. The Autry has many special programs every week -- sometimes several in a day. To check their daily calendar, CLICK HERE. And they always have gold panning for kids every weekend. For directions, hours, admission prices, and all other information, CLICK HERE. 


Across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, this building, once the headquarters of Lasky-Famous Players (later Paramount Pictures) was the original DeMille Barn, where Cecil B. DeMille made the first Hollywood western, The Squaw Man. They have a permanent display of movie props, documents and other items related to early, especially silent, film production. They also have occasional special programs. 2100 Highland Ave., L.A. CA 323-874-2276. Thursday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. $5 for adults, $3 for senior, $1 for children.


This small but entertaining museum gives a detailed history of Wells Fargo when the name suggested stage-coaches rather than ATMS. There’s a historically accurate reproduction of an agent’s office, an original Concord Coach, and other historical displays. Open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Admission is free. 213-253-7166. 333 S. Grand Street, L.A. CA.

That's about it for now.  I've been working all week on a doumentary about early TV comedians, and didn't think I'd get half this much written!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright April 2012 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

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