Friday, June 12, 2009

Civil War Reenactments.

For the last few years I had been attending several civil war reenactments in Virginia, mostly in Isle of Wight County. These consists of a Rebel and Yankee encampments with sleeping tents, kitchens, headquarters, communications, supplies and horse stables among others. The participants come from ways of life and really live their roles wearing authentic period clothing and weapons as a first choice or period reproductions.
In the above photo you can see a wounded soldier falling into the ground.

The occasions start on a Friday when the camps are set-up and in Saturday mornings you can visit the encampments where the reenactors lives as it was in the real camps in the civil war. Cooking is done in open fire with cast iron pots and ant a typical breakfast consist of egg, bacon, bread and coffee. They mostly seat around waiting for orders smoking, talking and cleaning their weapons. By late morning, they are called into formations and practice various military maneuvers.
The battles are actually fought in the afternoon and here is where the men becomes boys playing war. These are very involved and the participants are really absorbed by their roles.
Battles are very active with canon and muskets fire, flag waving, cavalry charges and infantry charges. The weapons are real and last year, there was an accident one of the rifleman shot a real mini ball wounding and opponent.
Canons as part of the battles and they usually are fired at the beginning to soften the enemy ranks. Each artillery piece is manned by several soldiers each of whom has an specific duty such as cleaning and loading the gun, others bring the powder charges and the canon balls while others aim and fire the pieces. Needless to say these canons are very loud.
There are several children in the battlefields doing several jobs; above a drummer boy is moving forward in a rebel charge. Children in reenactments play several roles such as water carriers, assisting the wounded in the field and taking care of horses. Girls as well as women are also participating in these reenactments in occasionally playing same role men...I imagine that this was not too common during the real Civil War.
Some of the reenactors are very proud of their possessions and willing to share their historical value. The heart medallion above was found in the Cold Harbor Battlefield. According to the owner, it was hollowed and used by the female order to smuggle messages hidden inside it. As you can see, the medallion hollow area was at the top (greenish color) but the cover is missing. The string holding the medallion was made of human hair very finely woven into a cord. The owner claims that it is the original, but I wonder how could it has survived so many years in a field.
Above are photos of some of the reenactors, I can tell you , they are really having fun recreating the past. Some of these are very professional and speak as they really were from the Civil War period. You can hear them talking about the upcoming battle as it was really happening and keep the historical accuracy of the battle events. The second image is that of a soldier with a bone on it. Can anyone tell me what bone this is?
I believe that there is only one of my regular bloggers that knows what it is and he is in Alaska right now. Give it a try.
Of course there are some of the reenacters that are not up to the "period" as they say because of items of modern times; in this case lady in blue with a digital camera; just a time warp.
Of course, there is not a complete Civil War battle without lots of horses and these were not missing. The cost of these reenactments is high, I believe that my hobby of taking photos is a bargain. Imagine, maintaining these horses as well as the cost of the riding gear is quite expensive not to mention the large pieces of artillery and the carriages needed to take them and move them around the battle. And at the end of the weekend, all are anxious to go home.


SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

A wonderful series Jose. Which battle was this which they were re-enacting? How did the soldier know he was wounded and had to fall down? :) It seems like great fun. I must admit I have never seen a bone like that so I am going to have to wait for your friend to tell me what it is. :) Is that a derringer!! All the gamblers used to have them but they were only two shots. It seems a bit big for one though but hard to judge from a picture. That is a lovely story of the heart. It seems like romance has died out in this modern world. The camera and the car do seem a bit out of place though :) Must be the time warp again. :)

Thanks for sharing.

Juan C. Aguero said...

Es un excelente documento fotografico.

gidje said...

Hmmm, I cant even begin to guess what bone that is. I'll start by guessing it's a femur bone. Do you happen to know the meaning behind why they kept a bone like that? What an interesting post. I really like the photos with the heart medallian and the gentleman with the smoke plume.

Tim Rucci said...

Interesting stuff, Jose, and an interesting diversion from the normal topic. Great photos too. You really captured the moment.