Ed Mann portrayed Confederate States Army Col. James Chestnut Jr., a former U.S. Senator from South Carolina, this weekend at the 18th re-enactment of the Battle of Aiken. The members of Brigadier Gen. Barnard E. Bee Camp No. 1575 was among the hundreds of re-enactors to bring history to life at the Confederate Memorial Park.
“For me, it's all about the education,” Mann said.
Visitors to the park had an opportunity to stroll through encampments, see the officers in their sartorial splendor as they brandished a variety of accouterments and ladies of the era in their period dress. But, it also provided the audience with a chance to get better acquainted with the hardships associated with a troubling time in the nation's history.
A passion for performing serves as the impetus for many of the re-enactors' participation, and it's their appreciation for the era, its historical significance and for some what almost seems as if it's a calling.
Dixie Weader has a predilection for the time period, her favorite movie is “Gone with the Wind,” but it also provided her with a chance to honor the memory of a family member who was a Confederate States Army soldier.
“I make my own dresses,” said Weader, who wore a period costume. “It has hoops under it. My hoops are actually the size they would have worn if you were very wealthy.”
The action on the battlefield featured belligerents engaging in combat, the cavalry charging across the field at full gallop on horseback, the resounding explosions of mortars and cannons filling the staging area with a cloud of smoke and an aroma of sulphur, raising the blood pressure of even the calmest of souls as the re-enactors fought with an authentic intensity evoking images of an unforgiving war.
Barb and Jack Gomarko were visiting the area from Minnesota, and it was an advertisement about the re-enactment that piqued their interest.
“It's our first time,” said Barb. “We thought it would be a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.”
The Battle of Aiken has been a family affair for Pamela Harrell, and it was a way for her to spend meaningful time with those who are important to her.
“My dad's one of the re-enactors,” said Harrell. “My daughter is 9, and this is the fifth Battle of Aiken she's been to. I think it's very educational for her, especially since she's in the third grade and that her class just learned about slavery last week.”
Vendors, educational booths and demonstrations were also part of a weekend that provided the audience with an opportunity to experience what life must have been like during the 19th century.
“We try to provide the most authentic merchandise that's affordable to the re-enactors,” said Andy Fulks, Fall Creek Suttlery, Whitestown, Ind. “We're blessed because the local folks like to buy as much of the gear as the re-enactors do.”