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Actors live the Civil War at Vista museum

VISTA — The sounds of drums and fifes mingled with the flash of rifles and cannons as North squared off against South in a re-enactment of the Civil War on March 7 and March 8, in what has become an annual tradition at Vista’s Antique Steam and Gas Engine Museum.
For two days, there were more soldiers marching down the dusty museum paths than actually served in mid-19th century California. They paraded, saluted and in the early morning and mid-afternoon of both days, they fought and pretended to die. In the interest of fair play, both sides got to win and lose two battles.
The large portion of the assembled soldiers were infantry, but it was the cavalry who stole the scene as they cantered about the museum grounds.
“You want to be cavalry, you don’t want to be infantry,” Bill Behrens of Arizona said. Behrens played the part of a Confederate major. “Dismounted cavalry, they’ve got style. (They) wear the boots and everything. The infantry are sticklers on making you march and stuff.”
Political leaders were also fairly represented at the event. Both Union president Abraham Lincoln and Confederate president Jefferson Davis were in attendance. The latter is a far more uncommon sight.
“There’s Lincolns pretty much everywhere,” John Smoley, the man behind the Davis persona, said. “That’s what made me become President Davis. I was out digging dirt with the boys at every event; there was always a Lincoln and never a Davis.”
“Because I’m now showing up to these events, he had to adjust his speeches a little bit,” Smoley noted with a smile, pointing to the lanky man portraying Lincoln. “He can’t get away with what he used to.”
More information on the museum and scheduling for the next Civil War re-enactment can be found at