FARMINGTON — To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War this week, memorabilia collector Richard Bates and his wife Vicky held a pig roast Saturday at their restaurant: GrantLee’s Tavern and Grill.

They were joined at 477 Fairbanks Road by The Sandy River Ramblers who performed bluegrass music and an encampment of 15th Alabama re-enactors, complete with Confederate flags, Southern belles, a war surgeon, marching drills and booming muskets.

Taking a break from serving roast pork to the small lunchtime crowd, Richard Bates said Saturday’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Event was the debut of a series of similar events being held there later to coincide with major battles.

“This is our first event and we’re pretty excited about it,” he said.

Bates said the 15th Alabama regiment, which is undergoing a recruiting campaign for re-enactors, volunteered to help by educating the public about life on the front lines.

“They’re fantastic,” he said. “I think we’re real fortunate to have them. They’re trying to recruit for their organization, so it helps them and it helps us having them here. I just wish it was a little warmer.”

The tavern’s name, GrantLee’s, stands for Ulysses S. Grant, Union Army commander, and Robert E. Lee, who surrendered the Confederate Army on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox, Va.

The interesting parallel about Saturday’s event is that the tavern is decorated with special emphasis on the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, at Little Round Top, withstood three furious charges by Col. William Calvin Oates’ 15th Alabama regiment.

The 20th Maine leader, Col. Joshua Chamberlain, then ordered the infamous fixed-bayonets charge downhill into the Confederates to win the day.

On Saturday, the 15th Alabama was ensconced behind three gray Port-A-Pottys.

Six men drilled in ranks as re-enactor wives, garbed in 1860s hoop skirts, sat inside the only field tent, taking shelter from a bone-chilling wind.

The aroma of fresh coffee commingled with wood smoke and gun smoke.

“We’ve got a pretty good group and we try to pull in people,” said Michael Pratt of Farmington, who portrays a captain leading the regiment. In real life, he works at Heritage Printing in Farmington.

Pratt credits the regiment’s website — — with keeping the group viable and active. It has also helped to recruit people, including a couple from Massachusetts.

All but four of the 15th Alabama re-enactors participated on Saturday.

“It’s one of those things where it’s difficult to recruit for a hobby like this, because the level of interest in history is low,” Pratt said.

“Often, it’s a lot of people when they get older saying, ‘I’ve always wanted to do this,’ and then they join, because they’ve also got the money to do it,” he said.

The most expensive thing is the weapon, he said. Civil War-era muskets cost from $500 to $1,000.

Additionally, “being a Confederate portrayal, people assume they have to be from the South, or you’re living in the South, and it’s like any living history era, you need people to do all sides,” Pratt said.

His goal is to muster 35 men with rifles into a firing line at a local event.

“It would be a great thing to have 25 to 30 rifles in a line,” he said. “Something like this is easier. We do a lot of parades, but when you’re in a parade, you’re marching, so you can’t stop and talk to people.”

They will participate in encampments and battles — complete with artillery — on June 4 and 5 at the Rally for Norlands in Livermore.

On July 21-24, they will do the same on a much bigger scale in Virginia where 8,000 re-enactors will portray one of the Bull Run battles at Manassus.

As for portraying life in an era 150 years ago, Pratt said, “I’ve been doing it for 10 years, so now we’re at the sesquicentennial and it’s just amazing I made it this far.”

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: