Civil War re-enactors dig in again Saturday at Everett cemetery

No matter the weather Saturday, Marilee Rehfield will pile on the clothing.

“I will be wearing all seven layers of appropriate underpinnings before my dress goes on,” said Rehfield, who represents a civilian supporting the Confederacy at Civil War re-enactments.

Rehfield, 53, will be in Everett Saturday — in her full-skirted gown and high-top shoes — for the annual “Echoes of Blue &Gray” event at Evergreen Funeral Home and Cemetery.

Members of the Washington Civil War Association will be there with Union and Confederate re-enactors. Gene Fosheim, of the Historic Everett preservation group, will lead a cemetery tour of Civil War veterans’ graves. The free event will include a battlefield skirmish, historical displays, and a keynote speech by Steve Bertrand, a Cascade High School teacher and Civil War re-enactor.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, which left 620,000 people dead. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered April 9, 1865.

“My unit is the Mason-Dixon unit; we represent Confederate civilians,” said Rehfield, whose husband takes part in battlefield events. Her ancestors fought for the Union, but Rehfield and her husband switched to the Confederate side after a couple years as re-enactors.

“When we are re-enacting, we do become a family,” she said. “There’s something to be said for Southern hospitality.”

This has also been a season of Southern controversy. After the shooting deaths of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, the Confederate battle flag was removed from that state’s Capitol complex. The accused gunman had posed with the flag, seen by many as a symbol of racism. To others, the flag once flown by Gen. Lee’s Confederate unit represents Southern heritage.

To Rehfield, the Confederate battle flag is part of history. It will be displayed Saturday. “We are living history, and do our best to portray history as it occurred,” she said. “History is what history is. It consists of both sides.”

Bruce Smith, 69, is a Washington Civil War Association member and Echoes of Blue &Gray organizer. The Woodinville man and his wife, Barbara, have been involved since 1998. He is on the Union side, a member of the 4th U.S. Regular Infantry. That unit was once stationed at Fort Steilacoom. “They moved it to the East Coast with the Army of the Potomac,” said Smith, whose interest in the Civil War dates to the 1950s when he read a Classic Comics version of “The Red Badge of Courage.”

Although he fights for the Union, Smith supports the display of the Confederate flag at Civil War events. “This is the context of when that flag would have existed. That was the soldiers’ flag,” he said.

For years, Smith and researcher Karyn Weingarden have used miliary archives and cemetery records to write biographies for Civil War veterans buried in Washington.

While Smith has written history, James Shipman has turned his ancestor’s Civil War service into historical fiction. Shipman is an Everett attorney whose late father, Jim Shipman, worked to identify and honor Civil War veterans buried at Evergreen Cemetery.

Jim Shipman, who died in 2013, was the longtime owner of Marysville’s Schaefer-Shipman Funeral Home and a former manager of Evergreen Funeral Home and Cemetery.

James Shipman’s book, “Going Home: A Novel of the Civil War,” was published July 28 by Lake Union Publishing, part of Amazon Publishing. “It’s a historical novel based on my great-great grandfather. My dad did a ton of research for the book,” he said.

The main character, Joseph Forsyth, was an Irishman who came to upstate New York via Canada. Forsyth’s family was murdered while he served with the 186th New York Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War, Shipman said.

Evergreen Cemetery manager Nancy Hansen said the late Jim Shipman’s historical contributions, including his work on the Civil War biographies, will be acknowledged during Echoes of Blue &Gray.

Rehfield, Smith and other re-enactors are faithful to the history, with all of its pain and suffering.

“We can’t erase our history,” Rehfield said. “We do need to learn from it.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Civil War event Saturday

“Echoes of Blue &Gray,” an annual Civil War re-enactment, will be held Saturday at Evergreen Funeral Home and Cemetery. Free event includes costumed re-enactors from Washington Civil War Association, a cemetery tour, battlefield skirmish, black-powder musket and artillery salutes, and historical artifacts. Displays open 10 a.m. in funeral home; cemetery tour starts 11 a.m. at north cemetery gate; hot dog lunch at noon; keynote talk 12:30 p.m.; battlefield skirmish 1 p.m.; event ends 3 p.m. Evergreen Cemetery is at 4504 Broadway, Everett.

Read biographies of our state’s Civil War veterans at: http://civilwarvetswastate.com

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