|Civil War Reenactment: A Living History
Rebecca Blackwell Drake
Battle of Jackson, held at Waverly Plantation with more than 3,500
reenactors, was one of the many weekend events
The Battle of Jackson, held at Waverly Plantation with more than 3,500 reenactors, was one of the many weekend events
THE REENACTMENT was the largest event of its kind to be held in Mississippi and among the largest held in the nation. Over 3,500 reenactors from a cross-section of America participated in the "living history" event. Full-scale Civil War cannons and hundreds of Calvary troopers added to the excitement of each battle. For the first time in 135 years, the town of Raymond heard the sound of cannons and gunfire exploding from a distance.
CIVIL WAR REENACTMENTS, also known as Living History, has rapidly become one of the fastest growing hobbies in the United States. For many it could even be considered a family kind of thing. Linda Shott from Plainview, Arkansas, commented, "My family and I try to participate in at least one reenactment every month. My husband and son are in blue just as often as they are in gray." When joining a Civil War reenactment organization, men have a variety of units to choose from; Heavy Artillery, the Infantry, the Calvary, Mounted Rifles, Medical Department and others. Boys 15 and younger often sign with the Fife, Drum and Bugle Corps. Women and children are also encouraged to participate in a variety of interesting roles.
PERIOD COSTUMES ARE EXPENSIVE. The average cost of outfitting a Confederate or Union soldier is approximately $400-$500 dollars. The women also pay a fortune for dresses, corsets, hoops and jewelry. To meet the need for "supply and demand," new type of business known as the suttlery has surfaced. In Civil War times, a 'sutler' was a person who followed the army and sold items such as whiskey, trinkets and medicine to the soldiers. Today, a large number of suttlery companies supply the customer with historical reproductions of Civil War items: clothing, tents, muskets, buckles, shoes, boots, eye glasses, swords, guns etc. Many of the items can be ordered from companies who advertise on the Internet.
FLAGS WITH STARS AND STRIPES were important to Confederate and Union Armies. Flags varied as to each regiment and each state. Of interest to Civil War buffs whose ancestors fought in the War was a novelty shop owned by Terry Stuckey from Pascagoula. The shop, Authentic Legends, was located near the main gate leading into Waverly. Stuckey delighted the crowds with his display of "Stars and Strips" decals - each representing a different state and a different brigade. One of the most popular selling shirts with the flag emblem was the Bonnie Blue Flag of Mississippi.
SOLDIERS IN THE CALVARY pay a high price to be a reenactor. All horses on the battlefield have to be attired with appropriate equipment. In addition to the expense of saddles, saddle bags, blankets, and bridles, the owner also has to keep the horse shod as well as owning a large truck and trailer for hauling.
Brad West, Gary Nichols and Steve Grice are Civil War reenactors who serve in the Calvary Unit. Gary and Steve from Panama City, Florida, arrived in Raymond just in time to unload their horses and saddle up for the action. "During today's battle I'll be riding Courier for the Commander of the Confederate Forces and delivering messages," stated Nichols. We are both members of the 1st Alabama Calvary CSA. Grice was also excited about the battle. As he 'saddled up' he commented, "In 1862, my ancestor fought with the 26th Mississippi in the Infantry at the Battle of Champion Hill. So, for me, this is a very special event to be involved in." Brad, from Eudora, Kansas served as Courier for the Federal Commanders.
ROYCE LOESCH and KIRK HALE, members of the Landis Confederate Battery, Light Artillery Unity were also preparing for the Battle of Raymond. "I'm from South Dakota," stated Loesch, "and Kirk is from Kansas City. We are both members of the Landis Confederate Battery which is out of St. Joseph, Missouri." Loesch added, "This is my first time to Raymond but we've all heard about the Battle of Raymond and the Battle of Champion Hill. I was really happy to get down this way because my great-great uncle was captured in Canton during the war. He was taken to a prison in Andersonville and stayed there for a year before being released. He lived to be 101 years old."
Military Parade in front of the historic Raymond Courthouse
featured more than 3,500 Confederate and Union reenactors.
A Military Parade in front of the historic Raymond Courthouse featured more than 3,500 Confederate and Union reenactors.
THREE THOUSAND SOLDIERS, blue and gray, paraded through the streets of Raymond, reenacting the scene that followed the Battle of Raymond on May 12, 1863. "GO HOME YANKEE! We don't want you here!" yelled angry Confederate women dressed in hoop skirts and other attire dating back to the 1860s. The Yankee soldiers ignored the insults and grabbed for the food that had been prepared for the Confederates. Across the street, another line of women heralded the Yankee troops as they marched by waving their handkerchiefs and cheering, "Hooray for the Union."
A COLORFUL PART OF RAYMOND'S HISTORY involves an episode that happened soon after the battle. The women of Raymond, confidant the Confederates would win, had set up picnic tables and prepared a feast for the hungry troops. What they hadn't entertained was the idea that the Confederates might lose and the unwanted Yankees would take the food. Linda Shott, a reenactor from Arkansas commented, "I was impressed with the parade of soldiers through the streets of Raymond and how many local women and children turned out to hand out food to the soldiers. The Union officer and woman put on a good show about the food as the Union troops paraded by."
THE OLDE TOWN BRASS ENSEMBLE from Huntsville, Alabama, was a highlight of the weekend. The ensemble, all professional musicians from Huntsville, Alabama, delighted the crowds prior to each battle as well as in the military parade. In keeping with 'living history', their attire was authentic as were their instruments. The most popular tunes performed were Dixie and Eating Goober Peas.
"SURGEON GENERAL" read the sign on another large tent located on the courthouse front lawn. This tent housed the Surgeon General, Leonard Woodrum of Panama City, and his brigade. Major Jim Eller from Bristol, Tennessee, was one of the men comprising the 2nd Brigade Medical Department.
THE OLD MEDICAL BOTTLES WERE FASCINATING. "We used to have a vast display of medicines and old bottles that would have been used by the soldiers during the war," commented Woodrum. "But, during a reenactment in South Carolina, a big storm came up. The storm was so severe, the winds took our tent and everything went up in the air including the bottles and displays. Most everything was broken as a result of the storm. What you see in the case is about all that we have left."
THE FRONTIER MEDICAL BRIGADE tent was set up behind the Episcopal Church. "This is a medical unit that represents the frontier brigade," stated Herschel Stroud, Brigade Surgeon from Topeka, Kansas. "This organization, based out of Salina, Kansas, encompasses troops from Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas. What you see is the typical field medical unit that would have been set up near the site of a battle during the Civil War. The brigade worked like an emergency treatment station. Initial care, including amputations, would have been dispensed at sites like this. There were about 30,000 amputations performed in the field during the Civil War."
DURING THE WEEKEND, all of the reenactors gave the spectators a wonderful glimpse into Civil War times. While viewing the camps, soldiers were seen cleaning their guns, playing cards or readying themselves for battle. They lived off salt pork and hardtack. The women were busy darning socks, fixing uniforms or preparing food. At the sound of a bugle or drum, the troops would assemble and prepare for battle.
"THE TOWN OF RAYMOND and the people of Raymond are the most hospitable people that we've ever met in the 10 years that we've been doing reenactments," stated Major Jim Eller from Tennessee as he broke camp and prepared to leave town. Everybody has gone overboard to make us feel welcome and to take care of us. Our impression of everything was great. The reenactment was something that brought tears to most of our eyes as we watched what happened. I think this is one of the finer reenactments that we've been to. So, we are real happy with the people of Raymond, the Town of Raymond and the reenactors themselves."
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