A fight between two Confederate and two Union soldiers following a friendly poker game led to a skirmish that left most of the 72nd New York Infantry “dead” or “dying” on a field during Colusa Civil War Days on Saturday. Susan Meeker/Tri-County Newspapers

After 20 years re-enacting the drama of the American Civil War, Rosario Roberts of Los Molinos is giving up salt pork and hardtack.

His organization, Re-enactors of the American Civil War, has been recreating Civil War battles, as well as camp and civilian life from that time period since 1991.

The organization finds re-enacting the Civil War gives the public a unique glimpse into the past.

“It’s time to retire,” said Roberts, after one of four battles between Confederate and Union troops at the Colusa County Fairgrounds this past weekend. “I really loved doing this. Re-enacting the Civil War makes history come to life.”

Roberts portrayed Henri Paltron, cook for the New York 72nd Infantry, during the three-day Civil War Days in Colusa, and served as master of ceremony for the battle on Saturday.

Roberts’ character was captured by Union troops early in the war when New Orleans fell to the North, and he was forced to sign an oath of allegiance and fight for the Union.

For three days, Roberts and dozens of members of Re-enactors of the American Civil War, a Northern California nonprofit group, recreated drama from the most turbulent period in U.S. history.

“Most do this because they love the history or had family who fought in the Civil War,” Roberts said. “My wife and I both have great-grandfathers who fought in the Civil War.”

The organization hopes to return to Colusa next year with a presentation at the Sacramento River Recreation Area.

Re-enactors of the American Civil War has a sizable following of enthusiastic participants, young and old, who are willing to brave the elements and spend their own money in an effort to duplicate the events down to the smallest recorded detail.

Re-enactors invest in their own costumes and equipment when they enlist in the organization’s military units, which include U.S. sharpshooters and cavalry, Confederate and Union infantry, as well as other military groups, refugees and civilians.

“The first thing I did when I signed up was buy myself a cannon,” said RACW President Craig Poundstone, who portrays real life Union Capt.. Benjamin Rickenhouse, a West Point graduate with the Battery D, 5th U.S. Artillery.

Members, some as young as 13, are involved in re-enactment.

“I’m crazy about everything military,” said Giancarlo Nandino, 16, of Red Bluff. “I love Civil War history. The first time I saw a re-enactment in school I knew it was something I wanted to do.”

Nandino, whose parents supported his unusual hobby, enlisted in the 72nd New York Infantry, which battled the 1st Texas and 42nd Virginia Infantry groups Saturday and Sunday at the Colusa County Fairgrounds.

Tom Lemoine, 20, of Shingletown, is another new youngster to take over as older members, such as Roberts, retire.

“I’ve wanted to do this my whole life,” said Lemoine, who portrays an Alabama Infantryman named Tommy. “I finally got the chance.”

Thalia Fowler of Colusa, a RACW member for nine years, is one of many women participants.

“I have several personas, including Emily Todd Helm, the sister-in-law to Abraham Lincoln, and a Confederate nurse,” Fowler said. “My grandmother always said, ‘no rebs allowed.’ So naturally, I always wanted to be a rebel.”

Other women, like Lillian Hearne of Happy Valley disguised themselves as men in order to fight, just as many women did,

“They estimated about 4,000 women fought in the Civil War,” said Hearne, whose German Shepherd mix “Sampson” followed her into battle.

In addition to the re-enactment, the organization participated in the memorial ceremony Saturday at the Colusa Community Cemetery, where the Colusa Heritage Preservation Committee held an vacant chair ceremony for a Union and Confederate soldier.

Re-enactor Pat Parsons of Los Molinos said the ceremony makes his hobby more meaningful, especially since the Union solider recognized was John Willing, a Civil War veteran of the 72nd New York Infantry.

“It’s good to see a community do this,” Parson said. “It brings unity and closure. It’s nice that these men were honored.”

More than 130 Civil War veterans are buried in the Colusa cemetery.

John Thomas Scoot was the Confederate soldier honored.

The Rev. Malcom White conducted the ceremony.