|Aaron Black, an Austin native and father to Hal R. Black, watches as his son is assisted by living historian Lee R. Chesney in firing a rifle at the Texas Revolution and Civil War weapons demonstration at the 4th Annual American Heroes Celebration at Camp Mabry.
Story by Officer Candidate Micah Barnes
As the sky cleared from the dark and hazy morning to a bright and sunny afternoon, the air filled with the smell of fire and a billowing cloud of smoke. Wind blew away the ominous cloud, revealing a single line of ancient single-shot rifles used in the late 19th century, hoisted in the air by men young and old.
Held during the American Heroes Celebration at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, the Civil War and Texas Revolution weapons demonstration showcased not only weapons of the times, but also post Reconstruction dress, lifestyles and food of the era.
Throughout this event, authenticity was the key message conveyed to all the members of the audience and participants in the demonstrations.
"I feel more or less this is a forgotten time period that is swept over in the history books," said Kevin M. Burke, a native of League City, who wore his grandfather's uniform and shot a rifle used between 1906 and 1917. "This is my way of trying to follow in my grandfather's footsteps and get a better understanding of the family history."
The weapon's demonstration became an educational piece at one point, once the audience started to become involved with the "living history" group. They learned how to make some of the common foods that Confederate Soldiers ate such as hard tack, a hard bread that had a high resistance to spoiling and was used for centuries for land and sea operations by the military.
Another learning point for the on-lookers included how to properly load, aim, and fire the rifles and pistols of their military heritage.
"It was pretty intense, my heart was pounding because I knew that the rifles were loud and I did not realize how heavy they were," said Blake A. Kirk, a sixteen-year-old native of Rockwall. "I almost dropped it after I loaded the rifle."
The exhibits of the Civil War and the Texas Revolution offered families the opportunity to experience history hands-on. Several of the audience members crowded to take pictures of their sons and daughters attempting to hold onto the rifles, while the other adults looked at the living history Soldiers in amazement at how they moved around in the period shoes and uniforms.
"I could never miss this even if I wanted to; my kids look forward to it all year, both days actually." said Austin native Aaron Blake.
Overall, the fun-filled demonstration assisted in boasting the American Heroes Celebration message of remembering and honoring American Soldiers from our past and present. This event educated and bolstered the curiosity for learning about the American past through the audience's hands-on participation.
"This weapons demonstration is amazing, just being able to see all the things people used back in the past is really cool." said Blake. "I'm really appreciative of history to the point I'm thinking of joining a reenactment group."