As a young boy, I always looked forward to the end of May. It wasn't just the start of summer vacation, but the time for one of the most exciting events of the year: the Civil War Days Celebration at the Delaware County Historical Museum in Hopkinton, Iowa. The event, held from May 31st to June 2nd this year, promises an unforgettable adventure, full of history, fun, and learning.

Imagine stepping back in time to the 1860s, where you’re surrounded by soldiers in blue and gray uniforms, old-fashioned tents, and the smell of food cooking over campfires. That’s exactly what it’s like at Civil War Days, plus a healthy dose of fresh squeezed cider. This year’s theme is “Medical Practices of the 1860s,” offering a fascinating glimpse into the past.

Learning Through Experience

The American Civil War was a pivotal time in our nation’s history, fought from 1861 to 1865. It was a war between the Union (the North) and the Confederacy (the South), primarily over the issues of slavery and states' rights. Events like Civil War Days help us understand the sacrifices made and the impact of the war on our country. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which declared all slaves in rebel states to be free, was a significant step towards ending slavery.

Credit: Tomf688. A trace, retouch, and recolour of Image Secession Map of the United States, 1861
Credit: Tomf688.
A trace, retouch, and recolour of Image Secession Map of the United States, 1861

By attending Civil War Days, families can learn about these important events together. Kids (like younger me) get to see, hear, and even touch pieces of history, making it real and memorable. It’s a fun way to learn about the past while enjoying time with family and friends.

Friday Night Fun

The excitement begins on Friday evening with a Stone Soup Supper from 6 to 8 pm. It’s a simple meal, but there's something magical about eating soup made by reenactors using ingredients gathered from local residents. You can feel the community spirit and the connection to history as you enjoy your bowl of soup by the Museum Gymnasium.

Later, from 7 to 9:30 pm, the Reenactor’s Ball takes place in that same gymnasium. The public is invited, so bring your semi-formal attire or period dress and join in the dancing. A young violinist will be playing a rare violin made in Hopkinton in the early 1900s, which will add to the charm of the evening.

Saturday Adventures

Saturday kicks off with a Pancake Breakfast hosted by the Hoptown Hurricanes 4-H Club from 8 to 10 am. For just $8, you can enjoy a hearty meal and fuel up for the day’s activities. At 10 am, there's a Mid-Morning Tea in Clarke Hall where you can mingle with some of the reenactors.

One of my favorite parts of Saturday is the Civil War Days Parade at 11 AM. Watching the parade of soldiers, wagons, and locals in period dress is like seeing history come alive. After the parade, the Museum Grounds and buildings open from noon to 4:30 pm. With your $5 admission button, you can explore Old Main, Doolittle, and Clarke Halls, filled with historical artifacts and relics.

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The afternoon is packed with activities: music by the Americana Band, bingo, food trucks, and vendors offering all sorts of goodies. There are medical presentations, pioneer living demonstrations, and a ton of kid’s activities like potato sack races, three-legged races, kiddie tractor pulls, and even a pie-eating contest at 2 pm.

But the highlight of the day has to be the Civil War Battle Reenactment at 3 pm. Watching the soldiers march and hearing the cannons boom is both thrilling and educational. It’s a chance to learn about the bravery and struggles of those who fought in the war, bringing history to life in a way that books just can’t.

Sunday Reflection

The event winds down on Sunday with a serene Church Service from 9:30 to 10:30 am at the Museum's Reformed Presbyterian Church. It's a moment to reflect on all you've learned and experienced over the weekend. Afterward, refreshments are served on the Museum Grounds, and at 11 am another Civil War Battle Reenactment takes place.

Following the reenactment, the Museum buildings are open for tours. Walking through the historic halls and seeing the exhibits again gives you a deeper appreciation of the past.

So, if you’ve never been to the Civil War Days Celebration in Hopkinton, Iowa, this year is the perfect time to start. Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a fascinating & fun weekend outing, there’s something for everyone. Take a step back in time for an unforgettable adventure at Civil War Days.

LOOK: What 25 Historic Battlefields Look Like Today

The following is an examination of what became of the sites where America waged its most important and often most brutal campaigns of war. Using a variety of sources, Stacker selected 25 historically significant battlefields in American history. For each one, Stacker investigated what happened there when the battles raged as well as what became of those hallowed grounds when the fighting stopped.

These are the battlefields that defined the United States military’s journey from upstart Colonial rebels to an invincible global war machine.

Gallery Credit: Andrew Lisa

LOOK: 100 years of American military history