Sunday, July 29, 2012

Civil War Sunday - Onward, Reenactors

It's been a little over a year now since Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson fought at First Bull Run (First Manassas), the first "large" battle of the Civil War.  Both sides have learned the art of fighting against their once fellow countrymen.

You will note I call him Thomas, and not Stonewall.  Jackson felt his nickname of "Stonewall", given to him at First Manassas, was something only for the men he commanded to use), had seen a lot of action since that July, 1861 day near Manassas Junction. There was the Shenandoah campaign and the Peninsula Campaign.  And now, it is time to return to where the first major battle of the Civil War occurred for Round 2.

I'll be catching up with Thomas Jackson and his fellow soldiers at the 150th anniversary of Antietam in September.

But first, I want to talk a little bit about how reenactors have created and engaged my interest in the Civil War.  I've always loved history. But why the Civil War?

 (Picture courtesy of AM of Ramblin'with AM, taken this year in Elmira, NY)

Years back, in a visit to the Town of Binghamton, about an hour from Binghamton, I met a CSA general for the first time.  And, I dare say, it is because of him that I became as interested in the Civil War as I have become.

I went to that reenactment, at Pierce Creek, my first one, in August of 2009 and fell under the spell of a man by the name of Rich Gow, who played CSA General Armistead, who would later be mortally wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Growing up in New York State (and living in NY much of my adult life, I had basically only heard "one side of the story".  Rich Gow told the other side with such passion that I was hooked.

Since then I've been to several reenactments and other Civil War events, including the 150th anniversary of First Bull Run.  But I didn't experience the historical passion (purely G rated, folks) of that day in 2009 until a day in early May this year in Elmira, New York, when I ran into Thomas Jackson.

He was perched on a flood wall, his voice booming.  He was talking to people in character.   I learned a lot about Jackson, and something about the reenactor - whose name I do not know.  In fact, he was so much in character that he asked the audience's permission to take off his heavy wool coat as the afternoon warmed up, and address us in his vest.  Back in those days, he explained that was an R-rated action, and needed the permission of ladies present.

This reenactor has played Jackson for some 10 years.  He said his life and Jackson's have many parallels, and he very much identifies with Jackson  He loves educating people and one of his main missions is to make sure that school children learn more about the Civil War, and Thomas Jackson in particular.  He talked about the feelings of the Confederates with such passion that all the onlookers were mesmerized.

What fascinating people those involved in the Civil War were, and Jackson was no different.

Jackson actually has a link to New York State, having been stationed at Ft. Hamilton for a time.

He became estranged from his sister, who was firmly on the side of the Union.  He died during the war, so we will never know what would have happened if both had survived the war.

Jackson was an extremely devout man.  It colored everything about him, including his bravery in battle, and even his official battle reports.  
And even his last words, spoken as he lay dying from wounds suffered by friendly fire - Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.

I believe the reenactment group that was at Elmira, NY that day in May will be at the Antietam reenactement in September, and I am looking forward to catching up with Jackson once again. And, A.P. Hill, and maybe even author Jeff Shaara.

Maybe some of the reenactors I met at the Battle of Charleston these past two years will be there, too.

I can't wait.

1 comment:

  1. I love how passionate some of the reenactors are. The dedication is rewarding for them and for those of us on the spectator side!


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