Centuries of military history presented at Pheasant Run

Published: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 6:46 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 9:50 p.m. CDT
(Brenda Schory – bschory@shawmedia.com)
Steve Horrall (from left), Snow Wolf Wagner and Nagamootawa Kaik Kaik portray Ojibwa, Oddawa and Potowatomi natives in the French and Indian War and War of 1812 at the Military History Fest at Pheasant Run in St. Charles.

ST. CHARLES – Roman swords, Civil War muskets, helmets and boots from World Wars I and II all came together Saturday, the second of a three-day Military History Fest which continues Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pheasant Run in St. Charles.

Director Mike Bollow said between vendors and the public, about 1,500 people attended. The oldest reenactments date from Roman times, the newest is the Gulf War, he said.

"What's nice about this event is, it's the only time all re-enactors from various time periods come together," Bollow said. "Because every traditional re-enactment is only Colonial, or only World War II or only Civil War. We see that the things that are similar between our hobbies are actually greater than the things that divide us."

In addition to vendors selling period garb and artifacts spanning centuries of human conflict, enthusiasts and re-enactors in painstakingly accurate, detailed uniforms were everywhere, a kind of wartime see and be seen event.

Perhaps the most historically recognizable was President Abraham Lincoln, actually Max Daniels, a re-enactor and educator from Wheaton.

"I think there are several ways of learning history, obviously," Daniels said. "Through textbooks, through visuals. But I think another alternative way is visualization by personalization. If you can actually talk to the person – I think that is also a very good way to learn. What my wife and I do, as living historians, is go to schools and let the children learn by talking to the persons that we represents."

Susan Spencer of Ontario, Canada, wore the blue dress uniform of a Canadian Nursing Sister serving in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps in World War I.

"They were not allowed on the battlefield," Spencer said. "They were support to the doctors who were on the battlefield, the stretcher-bearers and medics."

Stephen Shellenbean of Merrimack, New Hampshire, was clad in the feathered hat and scored woolens of a 16th century landsknechte – German for servant or knight of the land who fought in wars from 1475 and 1535.

"They were soldiers who would be raised by a local barony or duchy, they would fight for a season and then they would go back to their lives, whether they were peasants, or millers or local townspeople," Shellenbean said. "They would muster in early in the spring and spend a month or two months training before going out and fighting. They would be fighting either specific wars or sometimes they would be hired out to other duchies or other countries to fight on their behalf."

Shellenbean's clothing – heavily cut sleeves, pants and shirt that were known as puff and slash. The clothing was predominantly wool and linen, first cut to allow soldiers to move more easily while fighting, then it became a style so the bottom layers of color would show through the top layers, he said.

Generally, they fought with a 14-foot to 20-foot spear called a pike used against cavalry.

"They would fight in blocks of 300 to 400 men with these huge spears and they were like a moving pointy wall – like a fortress on the battlefield," Shellenbean said. "Horses would charge and get drilled. Pretty messy stuff."

Martin Shaw of Plainfield wore the uniform of France from the period of 1789 to 1815, with its blue sleeves, red cuffs and collar, white center and blue hat of the 21st Legion.

The character he created, Charles Chevelier, serves in the French Army.

"I am at this event to portray a French revolutionary, a Napoleonic soldier of Napoleon's Grand Army," Shaw said.

Shaw said he is writing a series that takes place  in 1806 in the Fourth Coalition where the French defeated the Prussians.

"Napoleonic history has always interested me," Shaw said. "And since I'm writing it, I felt I had to become a soldier of this era to get the feel for it. My character does infantry and cavalry. I have a friend who says one of these days, he'll let me ride a horse and get that feeling as well."

Snow Wolf Wagner of Ontario said he belongs to the Ojibwa and Oddawa tribes. For this event, he dressed as an 1760s warrior in the French and Indian War period.

His nephew, Nagamootawa Kaik Kaik of Indianapolis, Ind., wore what the Ojibwa and Shawnee would have worn, and friend Steve Horrall, of Monroe City, Ind., dressed as Potawatomi, both for the War of 1812.

With leggings, boots, feathers and nose rings, Wagner said they did their research to be as authentic as possible.

"The Potawatomi, the Ojibwa and the Oddawa were one tribe, one confederation known as The Three Fires," Wagner said.

"The reason we do this is partially because people don't understand that the native people are still here ... and the native portrayals are done so poorly," Wagner said. "What we've done is go to these events and portray how we would have lived 200 years ago. We want to make sure our side of the history is being taught."

History buff Todd Ratliff of Bartlett said he enjoyed the show with its emphasis on history.

"I enjoy World War II history, and there's a lot of that here," Ratliff said. "There's also a lot of very interesting historical and period pieces and people who come from all over the country. It's a unique show."

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