Chris Zavadil/Fremont Tribune | Posted: Saturday, April 16, 2011 3:05 am

It’s going to be a busy year for the Fremont Pathfinders.

As the 150th anniversary of the Civil War is observed, re-enactors are in high demand.

“We’re doing things for the next five years,” Pathfinders Secretary Randy Beaton said. “We have quite a number of events in Missouri, we’re going to be at John C. Fremont Days and be a little more active.”

The Pathfinders will skirmish at Maskenthine Lake near Stanton in May and again in July, participate in Plainview’s 125th anniversary celebration June 3-5, and travel to events at other Nebraska communities as well as Kansas, Missouri and Iowa.

This weekend the Venture Crew, an affiliated unit, is sponsoring an event for school children at the Archway near Kearney.

“It’s kind of an emersion thing where you’re mustering into the Army, because on April 15, 1861, President Lincoln made his famous request for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion in the cotton states,” Beaton said.

“I’m going to be out there as the surgeon who gives them the basic medical exam they had back then,” he said. “They wanted soldiers in the Army and they took a lot of soldiers who were sickly. In four years of fighting all the sicklings and the stragglers were gone, but initially they wanted numbers, and people were very patriotic and enlisted.

Reenactors Marlin Jorgensen and Phil Lutz fire a cannon salute to open the Sons of Union Verterans of the Civil War dedication of new headstones Fremont's 150th celebration in 2006. (Tribune Files)

“They preferred six opposing teeth to tear the cartridges because that’s how you had to load your musket,” he said. “You had to have your trigger finger and your thumb on one hand to fire your musket. You might be missing the other three fingers, but you would be fit for duty.”

The annual Fremont Middle School Civil War Day will be May 18.

“There’s usually myself and another seven re-enactors,” Beaton said. “We started this about six years ago, we can show them quite a few things.”

“We can fire the mortar because it’s usually a 50- to 100-yard maximum. We’ve done that every year; we have some really good artillerists,” he said.

“The kids love it and it’s very safe,” he said. “We usually give them talks, the cavalry guys will bring down their horses and that’s pretty popular. Young guys like the guns, young girls like the horses it seems like.”

Civil War re-enactor Jordan Beaton sits near his tent during an historical exercise for Fremont Middle School students in 2008. (Tony Gray/Fremont Tribune).

Beaton said the Pathfinders are still developing plans for John C. Fremont Days July 8-10. A skirmish could be in the works if a suitable battlefield can be found.

“We’ll definitely have living history and demonstrations in the park,” he said. “We’re still trying to see if it’s feasible, we could have a small battle or skirmish, that is not resolved yet but we still have a couple of months.

“We had a lot of units that used to come but have kind of gone their own way, so we’ve had living histories in the park,” he continued. “We’re going to try to expand it a little bit. We don’t know if we’re going to be able to put the numbers together to do something major the first year, but we’ll try to encourage some of the other units to come back.

“The tough thing right now with John C. Fremont Days is finding property we can use that’s still authentic,” Beaton said. “We’ve done them on the soccer fields. They used to have them on the lake behind the mall years ago and they’re no longer allowing that for liability reasons.”

Beaton, a Dodge County deputy sheriff, said Pathfinder members come from all walks of life. The group does presentations, public displays and re-enactments of Union troops.

“I’m normally a private,” Beaton said. “I don’t ride a horse, but I act as one of the gun crew for the artillery pieces, and usually an infantryman, and I do a surgeon impression when that’s allowed.”

Beaton said people don’t have to travel far to see re-enactments.

“Maskenthine is really a cool place,” he said. “There’s a lot of land where we can do things and still not bother anybody who wants to camp. Of course most people would want to come over and at least see what’s going on since there’s no charge for it.”

Exact dates are not yet set for spring and summer visits there.

“Another cool one is Lamoni, Iowa (Sept. 3-4). It’s one big rolling field, there aren’t a lot of trees out there,” he said. “If somebody brings a small cooler and some comfortable chairs, they can sit on a rolling hill and watch it like they did at First Manassas or Bull Run, where the people showed up to watch the battle and made a hasty retreat when the battle came to them.

“We’re doing a national (event) in the fall,” Beaton said. “It won’t be on the level of Gettysburg, but it will be Wilson’s Creek, an early pivotal battle in 1861 in Missouri. Wilson Creek is down to the southwest, almost to Arkansas.

“For people who want to travel and make a short vacation, it’s an adjoining state. Gas prices are high, but this is about as close as their going to get to a national event where other states come to participate,” he said.

Beaton expects 5,000 to 6,000 re-enactors at the Aug. 12-14 event.

“I’ve been to Gettysburg in 2008 and we had more than 16,000 there,” he said.