The Civil War Comes to Mystic Seaport

Mystic Seaport will host one of the final Civil War encampments of the war's 150th anniversary July 18-19.
Civil War reenactors fire a cannon during a demonstration at Mystic Seaport in 2013.
Civil War reenactors fire a cannon during a demonstration at Mystic Seaport during the last encampment.

The Civil War comes to Mystic Seaport this weekend.

In partnership with the Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Commission, Mystic Seaport will host one of the final Civil War encampments of the war’s 150th anniversary July 18-19. More than 200 uniformed reenactors from several states will set up camp on the Museum’s Village Green to carry out infantry drills, conduct artillery demonstrations, and engage in mock battle. Visitors will be able to see a wide variety of displays and speak with naval and civilian reenactors.

A highlight of the event will be a Civil War scavenger hunt with a Civil War theme, “The Hunt for the Australia.”

“You’ve never seen anything like this,” said Matt Warshauer, professor of history at Central Connecticut State University and co-chair of the Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Commission, “and this event offers our guests something extra, a real twist.” Warshauer explains that a special Civil War scavenger hunt will take place, “The Hunt for the Australia”.

“Everyone loves a good mystery, and we’re providing an amazing story of a Confederate ship, the Australia, that was captured by Union forces and brought to Mystic,” explains Warshauer. “Inside the hold is a secret list that Confederates can’t allow to be found.”

The result: Rebel prisoners with a top-secret mission, a prison break, and a battle for control of the Seaport.

“The Hunt for the Australia” will be a fun challenge for the entire family. Come and track down the hidden clues, find evidence, interview soldiers and sailors, and locate the secret list. Special prizes will be awarded. “The scavenger hunt is something different,” says Warshauer, “and will add to our already outstanding Civil War exhibits and the truly authentic roles that our many reenactors perform.”

Dr. Glenn Gordinier, the Robert G. Albion Historian at Mystic Seaport, notes the Australia is a real vessel on exhibit at the Museum and may be the only surviving southern blockade runner still in existence. “These were ships that ran the Union blockade to provide supplies to the South during the war,” explains Gordinier. “Her present condition is mostly a skeleton of a ship, which makes her perfect for a mystery scenario.”

The Commemoration has been a four-year anniversary that is wrapping up this summer. Connecticut has been one of the most active states in the nation, holding hundreds of historical events and talks, all of which have highlighted Connecticut’s unique, historical importance during the Civil War. Warshauer says “Connecticut has been a leader in recognizing New England’s role in the war and Mystic Seaport is a perfect place for us to begin the close of the Commemoration. It is one of the most important and fun history sites in New England and its 19th-century village is ideal for a Civil War event of this magnitude. There may never be another encampment quite like this one.”

The Civil War Encampment is made possible by a grant from Connecticut Humanities and the generous support of Travelers Insurance.

The encampment will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days and is included in Museum admission.

About the CCWCC
The CCWCC was created by Governor M. Jodi Rell in 2010 and directed to coordinate activities across Connecticut to commemorate the state’s involvement in the Civil War.  The Commission is co-chaired by Dr. Booker DeVaughn, president emeritus of Three Rivers Community College, and Dr. Matthew Warshauer, professor of history at Central Connecticut State University. Members of the Commission include history and humanities professionals from across the state.