State swimming competitor and former sailing team captain Parker Johnson has excelled in BSM sports while balancing AP classes and spending his free time with friends and family. Recently Parker has become known as the guy who knows everything about American history and especially about the Civil War. History has drawn Parker in since he was a young boy playing video games based off events in American history such as World War II. Unlike most kids playing the games, Parker understood the events playing out before his eyes.
Parker’s curiosity for the Civil War sparked from his 7th grade project in which he visited and filmed a reenactment. “It was at a Norwegian heritage center called Norskedahlen. The reenacted battle was based on skirmishes around Chattanooga, Tennessee on November 23-25 and specifically the Battle of Missionary Ridge. I was just going along and filming it and talking to the reenactors, and at the end they told me I could join them. So I did,” said Johnson.
Since the summer he turned 14, Parker has participated in more than 30 events including 14 combat events, ten historical encampments, four school day visits, and two memorial services. “I can’t really remember which battle we were doing specifically, but it was an event in Bosobel, Wisconsin the first weekend in August. It was absolutely thrilling,” said Johnson about his first battle.
Parker typically participates in battles throughout the summer in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. However last summer he traveled to Virginia to participate in the reenactment of the historic Battle at Bull Run. “It was the 150th anniversary of the battle. We went to the official national event along with about 8,000-10,000 other reenactors. My favorite part was probably the action from Sunday where we were fully immersed in the action. It’s the moments where you forget yourself and the modern world, and are completely absorbed in the event that I live for as a reenactor,” said Johnson.
Not only does Parker spend his summers reenacting Civil War battles, he also collects memorabilia from American history. “I try to collect Civil War antiques. It’s pretty pricey so I don’t have a large collection going. I have a couple pages from Harper’s Weekly, which was a magazine that had a monthly periodical. The pages I have are from the end of 1963. And then I got some artist sketches from the siege of Charleston, some original prints. So that’s pretty cool. And then I’ve got a lot of bullets. I have one that I found myself. I typically look for .54 Sharps rifles, smooth bores, Springfields; all these different kinds that weren’t as common. I got a cleaning round for a .58 caliber rifle. So it has a tail on it that forks out and has a patch on it, so you load it like normal, but it would clean out the gun when you fired it. But the one I found was one that was fired, so they were obviously pretty desperate to fire their cleaning round,” said Johnson.
After reading the usual history books taught in school, he turned to non-fiction novels based on historic events. Parker’s appetite for history is actually closely linked to his passion for literature as well. “I like writing short stories too. I write a lot of short stories; they are all pretty long, the last one was 24 pages. I do a lot of war stuff, but not the typical war stuff. I like to do personal stories. Like the last one I did was the last 24 hours of this man’s life. It was about nature and survival and trying to get away. It has becomes one of my favorites,” said Johnson.
Parker took Creative Writing and expanded his literary talents to poetry. “I write poems for the women in my life. I wrote [my girlfriend] a poem book for Christmas. It was 26 poems long,” said Johnson.
Parker plans to continue his swimming career at Ham- line University this fall. “One of my friends that I used to swim with the YMCA for six years goes there. And I’ve already talked to the coach there, so I’ll for sure be swim- ming there,” said Johnson.