The Battle of Aiken will open its gates to the public today at 8:30 a.m. – hopefully with better weather this time.
The popular School Days event had only a limited program on Friday because of extended rain concerns. But on a cold, wet day, the weather didn’t stop the participation of some hardy Confederate and Union solders, as well as storekeepers and other folks.
“We’re set to go,” said camp commander Wayne Jones about Saturday’s event. “I’ve been dealing with re-enactors coming in and got a call from an artillery crew from Knoxville. They told me not to give up on them.”
Gary Winzler of Michigan is a woodworker and also taught the craft to high-schoolers. He has portrayed both Union and Confederate soldiers over the years.
“I’m just a storekeeper this weekend and she told me that,” Winzler said with a smile for his wife Donna. “We do wood reproductions of food and ammunition crates and camp equipment, even a writing desk.”
That’s always important, Jones, said – bringing in new people with different experiences. Susan Miller and longtime friend Joan Howard arrived in Aiken on Friday – with Miller set to portray Mary Todd Lincoln and Howard as Varina Davis, the wife of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America.
Both were invited by Wayne Jones. Miller started her role as Abraham Lincoln’s wife about four years ago and she enjoys “tagging along” with her friend. Howard and her late husband Cliff began their re-enactment activities as the President and Mrs. Lincoln in 1985
Ten years later, they realized that people were not doing the Davises and decided to focus on them. Through his research, Cliff Howard discovered that Lincoln and Davis never met in real life, but communicated through letters, speeches and newspaper articles.
“They would answer each other and respond to each other,” Howard said. “…And it’s just an interesting way to study history and teach people about Jefferson Davis.”
Jones said Aiken was fortunate to get a lot less rain Friday than areas south of the Aiken-Augusta area. As for Friday’s limited schedule, “We were more concerned about personal safety than with anything else. We’re keeping our fingers crossed (for Saturday).”
Highlights today will include the Battle of Aiken, part one, at 2:30 p.m., the Soldier’s Salute of Appreciation at 3:30 p.m. and the Commemoration of the Great Revival from 4 to 7 p.m.
Part two of the Battle and the Soldier’s Salute will be held at the same times Sunday. A church service is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. The service will be lead by Joey Young of Commerce, Ga., a lay preacher.
“We do this as a ministry of our church,” his wife Amanda said. “He holds services at re-enactments on Sunday mornings for soldiers as they would have then.”