MARION - Standing in a crowd of several hundred people, some perched on bleachers, many more on the gently sloping hill beneath it, one had the feeling this was not your typical 2013 event.
It might have been the 6-year-old chewing on a turkey leg as big as her forearm, or maybe the 9-year-old tipping back a jug of what I hoped was root beer, or perhaps it was the gentlemen dressed in 1800 apparel stepping from the portable toilet that tipped me off.
This was the 26th annual Battle of Mississinewa, and it's about as close to stepping into 1812, as the re-creators in the battlefield society have been able to make it. Each year 20,000-25,000 people come out over the three-day period, depending on the weather, of course.
Ed Breen, treasurer for the battlefield society, said you won't find cheeseburgers and iced Cokes here, nor will you find electricity. The idea is to bring you as close to that time period as they can through the sights and sounds that surround you.
Stroll through the village of white canvas tents and you will see merchants making their wares just the way they would have back then. Don't bother looking for anything in polyester, you'll find cotton and wool, and if you look hard you might find some sheepskins and buckskins. Everyone, minus the visitors of course, is dressed in period clothing.
The event has grown over the years, Breen said, and is really about as large as they would like it to be. There is one road in and out, and it's just one lane in either direction. The goal of the event is a historic re-enactment and living history program, as well as enjoyment of the visitors.
“We try and remain faithful to the era,” Breen said.
The battle itself, which happens twice a day Saturday and Sunday, is a re-creation of events that took place in 1812. Breen said back then the Americans were taking a beating on the frontier from the British and the Indians. Indians had been ambushing the US army, which was trying get relief to Fort Detroit, which was under siege. They sent troops into this area in December 1812 and took control of the ambushes. The army destroyed three Indian villages, and in retaliation, the Indians attacked Dec. 17. When the battle was over there were 42 dead Indians and 12 dead soldiers. Both sides retreated from the area.
Stroll through the encampments and you will find enactors here from all over the country and even a few from Canada. Walt Dubbeld, from Madison, has been involved with the Mississinewa re-enactment since its inception. Chris Black, from Winnipeg, Canada, is just as enthusiastic, though a few years younger. Their companion in arms, Alex Mackay, of Cedar Falls, Iowa, said he was born into it.
Down in the Indian village, Rachel Stillwell, 15, of Kokomo, has been coming with her family for the past two years. She and her two sisters were getting their faces painted by an Indian maiden. She said she came here with her school class one year and since then she and her whole family started to come to the event.
Breen said people who would like to come could still attend until 4 p.m. Sunday; they will be there all day, until 4 p.m. There will be a battle reenactment at 11:00 a.m. and at 1:30 p.m.