Living in the Past Civil War Re-Enactor Prepares for Battle

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Sneller Daily Herald Staff Writer

About one in every three summer weekends, Terry Fenelon becomes a completely different man.

Instead of being the Naperville lawyer his neighbors and family know and love, Fenelon trades his file cabinets for guns and becomes an Irish sharecropper from Virginia, "fightin' for my rahts" in the War Between the States.

A little bit odd? Sure. Living in the past? Maybe.

But Fenelon is definitely not alone. He's in the company of hundreds of men and women in the suburbs who participate in historical re-enactments of famous wars.

This weekend he and his colleagues will bring their guns, battles and historical expertise to Naper Settlement for Civil War Days, an annual living history event.

"We're really like a cross between a country fair and a costume party," Fenelon said.

Fenelon got started in re-enactments about six years ago when he and a few friends attended a big event in Green Bush, Wis.

They were hooked immediately, and by the second day of the re- enactment members of the 43rd Virginia Cavalry Battalion had supplied them with weapons and costumes and they joined the Confederates in the battle.

Soon, Fenelon and his friends had formed their own unit of the battalion - a group of Irish sharecroppers.

Fenelon and his friends participate in two kinds of battles - scripted battles, in which the winner is predetermined, and tacticals, where the philosophy is may the best man win.

Tacticals tend to be more for the participants' own entertainment than for spectators who want a slice of history. After all, it's no secret how the Civil War turns out, and it wouldn't do to have Confederates winning too many battles.

But even in the scripted battles, most of the soldiers are playing it by ear. That means they usually get to decide when - and how - they die.

"One of our specialties is taking cannon hits," Fenelon said, flashing a wicked grin.

Of course, any given solider can decide he would rather be injured than killed outright. …