Whether you're a Civil War buff, a sucker for period dress or just at a loss for something to do now that the Mardi Gras frenzy is over, the place to be this weekend is the Battle of Blood River Civil War Sesquicentennial Celebration in Springfield.

It's more than you think. Yes, it boasts two battle reenactments, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, but visitors who come just for the battles and then go home will miss a lot of what makes the occasion an example of "living history."

The authentic costuming includes not only soldiers, but camp followers and officers' families who actually camp out over the weekend using only those implements and household items available at the time. You'll find they are happy to sit with you a while and talk about the period they've come to understand at a deeper level than a history teacher whose knowledge comes only from books.

Providing the battles in this sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the start of the Civil War, the battles will be fought with troops on both sides gathered by host Mike Harper and the Louisiana State Militia 10th Brigade. In addition to the actual battles, they'll do separate artillery and infantry drills, while the camp followers will demonstrate laundry and cooking techniques.

Suttlers (merchants) including Sue's Suttler for the ladies and Mr. Jacks Mercantile for the men, along with cartridge, doll and butter makers, and the commissary are returning from previous years along with food vendors of exceptional quality.

This year, organizers, led by Denise Martin of Springfield Team Works, will also provide a horseshoe tournament and a Maypole dance as well as demonstrators of additional period skills including Mr. Bill's demonstration of mortuary and doctors' practices.

Another change this year is that the Ladies Tea will be held at Carter Plantation on Saturday morning, by invitation only, while another will be held on the grounds as a demonstration by the lady reenactors. A gentlemen's social, also by invitation, will be held that evening.

In honor of the sesquicentennial, there will be names of all Civil War soldiers who went to war from Livingston Parish.

"There were over 1,000," Martin said, "and we have found the names of about 500 of them from the Edward Livingston Historical Societies ‘big black history book of Livingston Parish.'"

It all takes place right in the heart of historic Springfield, where the 1800s Livingston Parish Courthouse still stands, in Fayard's Field behind the Town Hall on La. Hwy. 1037. Just take the Albany/Springfield exit and follow the signs to Springfield. You can't miss it.

Admission is free on Friday and $4 (ages 6-11 $2; under 6 free) on Saturday and Sunday. Come and spend the day.

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