If you hear sounds of war this weekend, don’t be alarmed — two reenacted Civil War battles will take place on Saturday and Sunday in the Union Canal Tunnel Park at 25th and Union Canal Drive.
Captain Dennis Shirk of the 93rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, the organization hosting the event along with the Friends of Union Canal Tunnel Park, is excited for people to see it. “You’ve got to come experience it for yourself,” said Shirk, especially for those who haven’t been to an event like this before.
Shirk, who’s been taking part in reenactments for over three decades, said that this year has the potential to be especially big, as he is anticipating up to 250 actors to take part in the event, including artillery. Visitors can take a walk through the encampment set up on-site and talk to the actors to understand what life was like for the soldiers that fought over 150 years ago.
2019 marks the event’s 29th anniversary. Two battles will be staged: the first will be held on Saturday, August 24, at 2:00pm, and the second will take place on Sunday, August 25, at 1:30pm. Neither event is meant to represent a specific battle from the war. As Shirk puts it, the battles are simply a “meeting of two opposing armies.”
This is the 5th year that the event has taken place at the Union Canal Tunnel Park, and it’s “one of the biggest public events the Park puts on,” according to Shirk. Previously, the battles have been staged at Stoever’s Dam Park, Twin Grove Park, and even at Fort Indiantown Gap.
The event would not be possible without the help of the Friends of the Union Canal Tunnel Park and the volunteers who run the organization. The Friends maintain the Park and offer guided tours of the canal and tunnel itself, which is the oldest surviving transportation tunnel in America.
Shirk is grateful to the Friends and Committee Chair Marty Brandt for their cooperation in putting on an event like this — as Shirk noted, “everyone out there is a volunteer.
The 93rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry is named for the regiment of the same name that served in the Civil War, hailing from Lebanon County. The original regiment was formed in 1861 and fought in several of the war’s well-known battles, including Gettysburg.
Admission is $4 per car, and funds go toward upkeep of the historic park. Concessions will be available. Visitors are encouraged to bring chairs or blankets of their own. Pets are not allowed on the south side of the park.
Narrated tours of the historic canal on the recently-restored tour boat will also be available on the weekend and on Sundays through October 1st ($9 for adults, $5 for students between 6 and 17, and free for children under 5).
Volunteers are also needed to help run the tours in both boat driving and narrating positions. Tours regularly take place from 12:30pm to 3:30pm, although visitors are encouraged to check ahead of time to confirm that tours will be offered on the specific date.
To learn more about the 93rd PA Volunteer Infantry and see more photos from past events, visit their Facebook page. If you’re interested in becoming a tour boat captain or narrator for the Friends of the Union Canal Tunnel Park, contact Marty Brandt at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Lebanon County Historical Society at 717-272-1473.