When the guns crack and thunder across the meadow at House On Metolius next weekend, Jim Stanovich will be in the thick of the heavy black powder smoke.

For the past 28 years, Stanovich, of Knappa, Oregon, has been reaching out to touch the history of the American Civil War — and to help others understand what life was like for the soldiers of that terrible conflict, which took some 620,000 American lives from 1861 to 1865.

Through the weekend of May 18-19, Stanovich will serve as Confederate battalion commander, in charge of the Confederate forces among the approximately 160 reenactors that will participate in the sixth annual Northwest Civil War Council event. The renactment immerses visitors in an open-air environment recreating the era of the 1860s. It is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

For Stanovich, education is one of the key goals of reenactment. Whether it’s school kids coming out to learn more about the Civil War, or the general public coming out to see a mock battle or to stroll through a military encampment, it’s about gaining an appreciation for the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the nation’s bloodiest conflict.

Civil War battles were often horrific, with men shot down in windrows by musket and artillery fire, many killed and others suffering grievous, crippling wounds.

“Those were your friends, sometimes your family, people you grew up with,” Stanovich said. “This was not a good war. This is something people had to deal with on a day-to-day basis. We’re not glorifying this.”

Civil War reenactment has ebbed and flowed in popularity since the centenary of the conflict in the 1960s. It hit a peak of popularity in the 1990s when Ken Burns’ powerful multi-part Civil War documentary on PBS and the movie “Gettysburg” sparked renewed interest in the conflict. The endeavor is currently at a low ebb.

Stanovich notes that many people he’s reenacted with over the years are aging out, and they’re not being replaced.

“There’s not as many young people getting it anymore,” he said. “The younger crowd is into online gaming and that sort of thing.”

And reenactment has drawn controversy in recent years, as symbols and memorials of the Confederacy draw fire — often from people who are not particularly interested in historical context. For Stanovich, context is critical.

“There’s been some controversy over the flag — the Confederate flag,” he acknowledged. “We use it properly, in the proper historical context.”

The Confederate forces in the reenactment fly the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag on the field of battle, as appropriate to the 1864 encounter battle setting of the reenactment. The Second National Flag is flown at Stanovich’s headquarters tent.

“Everyone tries to be pretty accurate — as accurate as possible in the flags that represent their unit.”

For dedicated reenactors, the goal of the endeavor is to create moments when they can touch the past, when it feels alive in the current moment. Stanovich finds the setting at House On Metolius particularly conducive to that effort. Most reenactments take place in parks near major highways, where the modern world inevitably intrudes.

That’s not so much the case in Camp Sherman.

“I step out of my tent and I’m surrounded by nothing but trees and mountains,” he said. “It’s nice. Yeah, it’s nice. Makes it a lot easier to do the time travel thing.”

The mountain meadow setting offers over five acres of living history with campsites, stores, medical practices, music, war reporting, yarn-spinning, fashion and other activities of the era. Civil War artillery, infantry and cavalry are represented.

Mock battles with cannons and muskets firing black powder are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day. General admission is $8; seniors and students, $5. Children under six, free. Parking, $5 per vehicle to help the Boy Scouts.

House On Metolius (www.metolius.com) is off Highway 20 two miles north of Camp Sherman, off road 1420.

The Northwest Civil War Council (www.nwcwc.net) is a nonprofit, living-history organization dedicated to educating the public and members about the American Civil War. Through educational drama at reenactments, participants discover and learn about history and the people who lived in the 1860s.