By Sara Brown
---- — LAWRENCE — Alexis Caratini heard gun shots coming from the Campagnone Common while relaxing in her house yesterday afternoon.
“It startled me,” the 20-year-old Lawrence resident said. “I nearly jumped out of my skin.”
Caratini decided to take a walk down to the common to see what all the commotion was about.
The scene Caratini experienced when she arrived wasn’t what she was expecting. It seemed like Lawrence had been transformed back in time, with a camp of soldiers in Civil War uniforms. She discovered the 11th annual Civil War Weekend being hosted by the Lawrence Civil War Memorial Guard.
“This is a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s like history come to life.”
Residents throughout the region will be able to enjoy the same experience Caratini did. The weekend event continues today with camp life living history demonstrations on the common. The first cannon fire is set for noon and will continue on the hour until 3:30 p.m .
The focus of this weekend is on the Lawrencians who fought at Gettysburg.
“There is a monument that people pass by everyday and have no idea of its meaning. This helps to educate the public,” said Bob Duffy, who was dressed as a captain in the 14th Brooklyn Regiment.
Duffy said it is vitally important that people understand what happened in the Civil War.
“It changed everything about our country,” he said. “If the Civil War didn’t happen, who knows where our country would be right now.”
Duffy said people learn more about history from these types of events than they do from a textbook.
“Reading a book is different than seeing it for yourself. A book can’t compare to smelling the gunfire or sitting around a campfire.”
Ashlie Jensen agreed.
“People tend to learn more when they can actually interact,” she said.
Jensen dressed as a civil war civilian who would be visiting a family member at one of the camps.
Jensen, a Worcester native, said she has participated in many living history events.
“This is my first time ever at an event in Lawrence, but the group I’m with says this is one of their favorites,” she said.
For Jensen, her favorite part was watching children learn.
“They always get a kick out of seeing the horses in the common.” she said. “They really seem to gravitate to it, which is great.”
Lawrence resident Jim Brown said he had wished he known sooner that his hometown hosts a Civil War weekend.
“I am a big history buff, so I love this type of stuff,” he said.
For Brown, his favorite part of the afternoon was talking to the participants.
“They are such a wealth of knowledge. You really learn stuff you never knew if you just talk to them,” he said.
Duffy said he loves talking to the public and encourages questions.
“If you are watching a documentary or reading a book, you can’t ask questions. That’s why we are here,” he said.
Caratini had no idea that citizens from Lawrence played a part in Gettysburg.
“That’s something they didn’t teach me in school. It’s kind of cool to think about,” she said.
Close to 100 Lawrence residents fought in Gettysburg and six were killed in action or died of their wounds.
“Hopefully, some people leave today a little bit more proud in their city than they did when they came,” Duffy said.