Around 50 times a year, Thom Weik steps outside his normal life in the 21st century and travels back 150 years to the time of the Civil War.
Weik, of Lawrence, is a six-year veteran of Civil War re-enactments. He travels all over the country to be a part of what he calls “living history.”
Saturday, Weik and about 50 other re-enactors from the region will participate in the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Black Jack, which took place on June 2, 1856. Just 3 miles east of Baldwin City, the Battle of Black Jack was the first recorded battle between abolitionists and pro-slavery forces — and it often is dubbed the first battle of the Civil War. John Brown led the abolitionists while Henry Clay Pate led the opposition.
Judy Billings, director of Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, said this will be the first battle on the field since the original in 1856. In fact, it will be the first re-enactment of its type to take place near Lawrence, adopting a common East Coast re-enactment feel.
“It’s a special feeling actually being at the place and on the site where the event happened,” Billings said.
The focus of the re-enactment is on preservation and education. Billings said it’s meant to be interactive and entertaining but also a learning experience.
“In our society an engaging, interactive activity is more inspiring and sparks more interest than reading out of a textbook,” Weik said.
Besides the re-enactment, the event will also include presentations, exhibitions, speakers, crafts and food, all tributes to Civil War lifestyle. Some of the craftspeople include a blacksmith and quilter. In addition, renowned photographer Robert Szabo will be demonstrating the wet-plate collodion technique that was popular during the Civil War era.
Weik and Billings said they hope for several thousand attendees throughout the day. A full list of activities can be found on the website www.blackjackbattlefield.org. Tickets and proceeds will go toward preservation of the battlefield.