Cheney Free Press February 28, 2019 by John McCallum
The Civil War is coming to Cheney.
Or rather an historically-close reenactment of the conflict that engulfed the nation for four years during the 1860s and is the deadliest war ever fought by U.S. forces that changed the country in ways still felt today.
Whether it’s called the Battle of Cheney or the Battle of Minnie Creek, Cheney officials have struck an agreement with the Washington Civil War Association to host the annual Civil War reenactment over two and a half days this Memorial Day weekend. The event, which has drawn 200 – 400 reenactors and 1,000 – 3,000 spectators, will take place in a wooded area off Anderson Road near the city’s wastewater treatment plant and also around Cheney itself. Two activities planned for downtown include a Saturday evening street dance downtown and a skirmish between selected troops.
And while it’s been billed as a reenactment, association event coordinator Mike Inman views the experience as much more than that.
“You’re not out here in a reenactment,” Inman said. “You’ve stepped through a rift in time.”
The event is coming to Cheney partly through the efforts of city building inspector Terry Mourning – himself a reenactor as a member of a unit known as the 7th Tennessee. The reenactment began about 20 years ago, held the first year at Mukogawa/Fort Wright in Spokane and then for about 10 years down the road in a large field at Riverside State Park’s equestrian area.
It moved from Riverside to Deep Creek Farms northwest of Fairchild Air Force Base. After the owner of the farm passed away a couple of years ago, his wife said the association could do one more year – 2018 – and then needed to look for a new location.
When Mourning saw the association needed a new site for the Memorial Day event, he got busy.
“I thought, yeah, I think we’ve got a site so I started looking around and found one,” he said.
The site north of Anderson Road just over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks is lightly forested, with an open field for skirmishing. Inman added its secluded location should enhance the experience of stepping back in time.
“At Riverside, you’d look up and see modern houses on the hillsides,” he added.
According to a press release, the Washington Civil War Association has between 700-800 members, with Spokane County being the home of the largest group of reenactors. The Memorial Day event can draw reenactors from not only Washington but also Idaho, Oregon, British Columbia and as far away as Montana and Utah.
According to the nonprofit association’s mission statement, the objective “is to interpret and present the daily life of Confederate and Federal soldiers, and their families through living history, reenactments, first-person characterizations, and education.”
Reenactors do everything at reenactments in period-style, from what they wear to the gear they use to camp at the site to how they conduct the reenactments, which includes tactics used during the war. “Living history representatives” include Union and Confederate infantry, artillery (full-size cannons) cavalry, medical units, musicians and civilian refugees.
There will also be a Memorial Day ceremony and a “lantern tour” after dark during which reenactors will fire their weapons so spectators can see how much flash is put out.
Inman said they are hoping to turn this year’s event into an unofficial 10-year run, or more, in Cheney. Mourning added the association is also looking at applying for city lodging tax funding to help with promotion and other aspects of the event.
Both men said they hope the reenactment serves not only as a tourism boost to the city, but a chance for people to learn and come to grips with why the Civil War was fought, and how.
“The fact that you can immerse yourself in the time period is nice,” Mourning said of the opportunity.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image credit: Washington Civil War Association: Washington State Civil War Association reenactors take part in a simulated battle in 2003 at Fort Steilacoom in Western Washington. The area is similar to the location the association and Cheney have selected near the city’s wastewater treatment plant for an inaugural event over two and a half days this Memorial Day weekend.