Union student and re-enactor Andy Cassarino to speak at ‘LibertyCon’ event

'There are Confederate re-enactors who have a tendency to bring up the ‘lost cause’'
Andy Cassarino, in a 5th NY uniform, with Union professor Andrea Foroughi.
Andy Cassarino, in a 5th NY uniform, with Union professor Andrea Foroughi.

Andy Cassarino enjoys immersing himself into history, and nothing’s better, he says, than listening to a re-enactor who gets it right.

However, Cassarino — who is leading a discussion group at this weekend’s Underground Railroad Conference in Albany, “LibertyCon 2018,” — is quick to remind people that just because someone might look the part, doesn’t mean you can believe everything they say. His round table is titled, “Playing Confederate: Race and Remembrance in the Re-enacting Community.”

“Major re-enactments can draw thousands of people, and oftentimes a re-enactor might be an authority on the battle that happened there, but they are less knowledgeable about the social history related to the event,” said Cassarino, a native of Rutland, Vermont, and a senior at Union College. He is set graduate in June with a history degree.

“There are Confederate re-enactors who have a tendency to bring up the ‘lost cause’ and tell you that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery and, unfortunately, that sort of thing is a lot more common than I’d like it to be.”

Cassarino, who has been doing Civil War re-enactments for five years now, will be facilitating a roundtable discussion that he will open to the audience. His program begins at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Albany Capital Center at 55 Eagle St.

The conference, sponsored by the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region, will kick off Friday at the state museum and conclude Sunday with an open house at the Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence at 194 Livingston Ave. in Albany.

“I’m going to lead a broad discussion about public history and how it’s presented to the public,” said Cassarino, who usually portrays a Union soldier or a camp follower while dressed in period costume. “Anyone who’s interested in the topic can show up. It’s always a bit controversial, and if there are any fireworks, I’m hoping we can turn it into a constructive conversation.”

Cassarino became interested after visiting a local historical site.

“The reason I started doing it myself was that I was listening to a young black re-enactor and he was doing a great job countering this narrative about the ‘lost cause,’ ” said Cassarino. “That really impressed me, and I realized it would be a great way to learn more and talk about history.”

Cassarino credits Union College professors Andrea Foroughi and Melinda Lawson for carefully fostering his interest in history. But it was his high school history teacher, John Peterson, who really got things started back in Rutland.

“We’ve done a lot of re-enacting together, and my first event as a re-enactor was the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg,” said Cassarino. “There were thousands of people there and it went on the whole week. It was just an incredible event.”

This won’t be Cassarino’s first time facilitating this kind of event.

“I did a presentation on Chester A. Arthur on campus, and talked about how we remember him,” said Cassarino. “All I’m trying to do is get people to think critically about what they’re reading and what the message is people are trying to get across. Sometimes it’s not the most accurate information.”

Three-day event

Among the other presenters throughout the day on Saturday will be Hofstra University’s Alan Singer, who will talk about New York’s opposition to Congressional Reconstruction as well as the issue of what to do with statues, both in the North and South.

The three-day event, whose theme is “Embracing Equity in a Global Society,” kicks off Friday with an opening address by Sharon Morgan and Tom DeWolf, authors of “Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade.” The two will discuss their 2013 book at 7 p.m. at Huxley Theater in the state museum.

‘LibertyCon 2018’

WHERE: New York State Museum, the Albany Capital Center and the Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, Albany
WHEN: Friday through Sunday
HOW MUCH: Admission fees vary

‘Playing Confederate: Race and Remembrance in the Re-enacting Community’

WHAT: A round table discussion led by Union College history major and reenactor Andy Cassarino
WHERE: The Albany Capital Center, 55 Eagle St., Albany
WHEN: 3:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $40 for adults, $30 for seniors and $10 for students, for all of Saturday’s events.

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