There’s A Theme Park About That Time The Union Tried To Use Dinosaurs To Win The Civil War

Mandatory Fun
Too bad there wasn’t a 19th Century Ian Malcolm to warn the Union troops that “life, uh, finds a way.”
Task & Purpose photo by James Clark

After a long weekend day drinking, floundering in swimming holes, and inner tubing in rivers — in between visiting the sights from which the city of Natural Bridge, Virginia takes it name — I decided to make a pit stop at Dinosaur Kingdom II in late August to learn about that one time the Union Army tried to harness dino-power to win the Civil War.


The premise of Dinosaur Kingdom II is what you might get if Jurassic Park was a two-hour Nickelodeon special drawn in the style of Ren & Stimpy and set during the Civil War. Designed by Mark Cline, a local artist and celebrity who also runs Lexington’s Ghost Tour, the alt-history parody park is remarkably affordable, uncrowded this late in the summer, and an utterly rewarding mindfuck:

Task & Purpose photo by James Clark

That's... that's not right.

For the low, low price of $10 for adults (and $6 for kids), entering the park means stumbling back in time to an alternate 1864 when, according to the tourist destination’s website, “them wacky Yankees is at it again! Tryin’ to use living dinosaurs as weapons of mass destruction against the South. But ole Dixie has more than a few tricks still left up her sleeve.”

As you make your way through the park, there’s a Ken Burns'esque documentary playing in a ramshackle theater, and in it Cline describes the Union’s failed attempt to reawaken a menagerie of dinosaurs they discovered frozen in a cavern. The plan? To use the prehistoric reptiles as beasts of burden, and, unsurprisingly, as devastating tools of war. Those dastardly Yankees!

Task & Purpose photo by James Clark

Too bad there wasn’t a 19th Century Ian Malcolm to warn the Union troops that “life, uh, finds a way.”

"The Yankee troops wanted to use these dinosaurs as weapons of mass destruction against the South. It kind of backfired on them," Cline told VICE News in July. "And this is the story that was left out of most of the history books. So I'm trying to bring the story to light to make sure that history is told the way it's supposed to be."

Related: Fly Swatters Are For Suckers. Take The Little Bastards Out With The ‘Bug-A-Salt’ Instead »

And one of the ways history is supposed to be told, according to Cline, involves Stonewall Jackson tricked-out with a steampunk bionic arm doing battle with some misbegotten hell-beast in a graveyard.

Task & Purpose photo by James Clark

I have no idea what's going on here and I'm perfectly fine with that.

The park also includes pterodactyl named Squak who was sent to steal a draft of the Gettysburg Address from a flummoxed Abe Lincoln. The latter is not just a real exhibit in Dinosaur Kingdom II — it’s also a scene from a comic based on the theme park, written and illustrated by Cline. The comic even includes a detailed breakdown of how Stonewall Jackson’s mechanical arm works. (Spoiler: There’s a crew of miniaturized Confederate soldiers inside. I’m completely serious.)

Task & Purpose photo by James Clark

A panel from Mark Cline's Dinosaur Kingdom II comic book, and yes those are tiny Confederate soldiers, and a horse, inside Stonewall Jackson's bionic arm.

Okay, so Dinosaur Kingdom II may not be entirely accurate, but who cares? It has dinos squaring off against Union troops armed with muskets; bizarre slime creatures; a cowboy corralling a herd of brontosauruses; and informational panels at each exhibit with, well, let’s call them alternative history facts. If nothing else, it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon, especially if you begin the morning with the hair of the dog.

WATCH NEXT:

Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials are warning soldiers and military families to be aware of scammers using the Exchange's logo.

In a news release Wednesday, Exchange officials said scammers using the name "Exchange Inc." have "fooled" soldiers and airmen to broker the sale of used cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and boat engines.

Read More Show Less

KABUL (Reuters) - The Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underlining the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees a pact with the United States.

The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government.

Islamic State fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks. They are battling government and U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban.

The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall in a minority Shi'ite neighborhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of "infidels".

Read More Show Less
U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Calling aviation geeks in New York City: The British are coming.

In their first visit to the United States since 2008, the Royal Air Force "Red Arrows" will perform an aerial demonstration next week over the Hudson River, according to an Air Force news release. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels demonstration teams will also be part of the show.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Air National Guard/Staff Sgt. Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea

Frances and Efrain Santiago, natives of Puerto Rico, wanted to show their support last month for protesters back home seeking to oust the island's governor.

The couple flew the flag of Puerto Rico on the garage of their Kissimmee home. It ticked off the homeowners association.

Someone from the Rolling Hills Estates Homeowners Association left a letter at their home, citing a "flag violation" and warning: "Please rectify the listed violation or you may incur a fine."

Frances Santiago, 38, an Army veteran, demanded to know why.

Read More Show Less
Todd Rosenberg/AP

A West Point graduate received a waiver from the U.S. Army to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, and play in the NFL while serving as an active-duty soldier.

The waiver for 2nd Lt. Brett Toth was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, who said that Toth signed a three-year deal with the Eagles. Toth graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 2018.

Read More Show Less