Re-enacting history at Fort Atkinson

Fort Atkinson
Checking out re-enactment at Fort Atkinson


Looking for something to do over the weekend created an opportunity we may not have jumped at before. I read a guest editorial in the local paper about dedicating a memorial to the dead at the Fort Atkinson state recreation area in Fort Calhoun, a few miles north of Omaha. The ceremony was to honor the estimated 200 soldiers and civilians buried in unmarked graves in the fort’s area.

Fort Atkinson
“Lt. Baker” reviews soldiers in formation

Upon further research, I learned it was a living history weekend at the fort. People would dress as soldiers and civilians from the early 1800s – when the fort was in operation. The “actors” dressed and acted as real and fictional people from the era. The weekend also had a flag dedication ceremony. Local business people and civic groups raised money to build an authentic (wooden) flag pole that would realistically resemble the flag pole that sat in the fort originally.

Fort Atkinson
The new flag pole

Fort Atkinson was the westernmost fort in the United States during its heyday, 1820-27. It was located near where the Lewis and Clark expedition met with local Native American tribal leaders in what they dubbed “a council bluff.” Thus, Council Bluffs, Iowa, allegedly got its name from that meeting.

The living history re-enactment was interesting. To see people go to great lengths to ensure period accuracy has to be appreciated. Too many people enjoy revisionist history these days.

The flag pole dedication ceremony was interesting in its own right. The actors stayed in character, while introducing “modern-day” people – civic and government speakers. The daughter of Mrs. Nebraska sang the national anthem.

The flag pole itself is made of wood. It’s painted white. The flag that flies atop the fort has 24 stars – the number of states in the Union at the time the fort was in operation. The flag supposedly can be seen for miles.

Following the flag pole ceremony, an actor portraying a town crier read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety, just like in 1776. It was educational.

Fort Atkinson
The town crier

Following the reading, Lisa and I took a stroll down a path to the spot of the Lewis and Clark/Native leaders council. A sculpture consisting of an arrow and pipe sit at the spot where the explorers and tribal leaders talked.

Fort Atkinson
The sculpture at the site of the “Council Bluff.”

We did not stay for the dedication of the memorial. We had a family commitment. But, we did have an enjoyable and educational time.

Fort Atkinson
Drummer at Fort Atkinson re-enactment

So, if you get the chance, I suggest taking in a living history event. You never know what you’ll learn or find entertaining.

Fort Atkinson
Fort Atkinson in Fort Calhoun, NE