Re-enactors bring past alive

Sidebar by Virginia McConnell Simmons

Fort Garland – June 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

During the 150th anniversary celebration at Fort Garland, re-enactors will take part in many events. Representing cavalry, infantry, and artillery units, men will recreate drills and other daily routines of life in a frontier fort. Ladies also will be present in period dress for the social activities that included wives and local women and to demonstrate the domestic chores performed by servants and laundresses.

The Fort Garland Memorial Regiment, a cavalry unit made up of more than two dozen horsemen from the San Luis Valley, will be on hand, along with the Artillery Company of New Mexico, from Albuquerque, and the newly organized New Mexico Infantry Volunteers, and the 1st Colorado Volunteers Band from Cañon City.

Re-enactors at Fort Garland; photo from Jack Rudder.
Re-enactors at Fort Garland; photo from Jack Rudder.

These volunteer re-enactors often participate during Memorial Day observances and regular rendezvous at Fort Garland, but this year the out-of-Valley groups postponed their trip until the sesquicentennial celebration. (For the record, Fort Garland had cavalry and infantry companies, but not artillery units.)

The period covered in presentations by the Fort Garland Memorial Regiment usually extends beyond the Civil War itself, in order to cover the 25-year life of the fort, and thereby include its famous commandant, Kit Carson.

Jack Rudder, a retired teacher who has been memorializing veterans by educating and entertaining school children and adults for 20 years with his reenactments, will be coordinating events with museum director Rick Manzanares. A resident of Alamosa, Rudder is first sergeant in the Fort Garland Memorial Regiment, and his wife Theresa is his aide for the ladies’ activities.

Rudder, the owner of a closet full of period uniforms and costumes, describes his group in the San Luis Valley as neither novices nor the kind of fanatical nit-pickers who quibble about such minutiae as authentic thread and stitches. Instead, they try to be as realistic as possible and also accessible for answering questions about military history, firearms, equipment, insignia, soldiers’ lives, and the role of the horses. So ask away!