The University of Georgia and the Civil War, pt. 1

Recently we took a trip back to our home state of Georiga. While there we made a stop at our alma mater, The University of Georgia. Sadly, I was unaware of UGAs ties to the Civil War while I was in attendance. However, now thanks to “The Reenactors” my new interest in Civil War history has me looking everywhere for connections. 

Did you know that the Confederate States Constitution is housed at the Main library on North Campus? It is held in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library on the third floor. Just don’t show up hoping to see it. We were informed that it is only displayed once a year on Confederate Memorial day. It is said to be 3 feet wide by 12 feet long and it takes 2 very large wooden display cases to show it!

Check back for more UGA and the Civil War!

Is that us being awkward on camera?

Yes, that is Nick and me being terribly awkward on camera. We were finishing up a business lunch with our new Historical Adviser, Keith Harris, and he insisted on putting us on camera. We’re very excited about this collaboration. We find Keith’s vast historical knowledge along with his embrace of technology refreshing for the world we’ve been entering. Please check out his blog, CosmicAmerica, to learn a bit more about him and some great tidbits about American history. 

Vote for your favorite photo!

The Civil War Trust posted their top 35 choices for the People’s Choice award. Head over to their website to vote today! Some beautiful photos of our our Nation’s battlefields!

These were just a few of my favorite!

Midnight Rising: A new book by Tony Horwitz
Today I was shopping on Amazon and in my recommended items section  was Tony Horwitz’s new book, Midnight Rising, releasing October 25, 2011. He is revisiting the Civil War era with his sixth book. I understand that there are mixed feelings for him in the reeanacting/living historian community due to his book, Confederates in the Attic. When we began researching for “The Reeanctors” this was one book we read. I even stated in my blog post concerning why I wanted to do this film that this book was a jumping off point for me in this documentary. (Many people took this the wrong way) I am not saying I agree with how he portrayed people or that I love the book. I am not trying to make his book come to life through this film. But I do enjoy his apporach. It sparked my interest in who the people are that reenact and how much character/passion they have. Below you will find the book description from his website. 

"Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown’s raid on Harpers  Ferry ruptured the union between North and South. Yet few Americans  know the true story of the militant idealists who invaded Virginia  before the Civil War. Now, Midnight Rising paints Brown’s uprising in  vivid color, capturing a nation on the brink of explosive conflict.
Unlike most abolitionists, Brown was prepared to shed blood in the  cause of freedom. After fighting against slavery in Bleeding Kansas, he  secured money and guns from clandestine backers called the Secret Six,  and convened a guerilla band that included three of his sons, his  teenaged daughter, a former slave desperate to free his wife from  bondage, and a dashing poet who acted as a spy inside Virginia. Then,  late one autumn night in 1859, Brown marched from his mountain hideout  into Harpers Ferry, seizing the town’s federal armory and vowing to  liberate every slave in the South.
The bloody fight at Harpers Ferry prompted a counterattack by U.S.  Marines under Robert E. Lee and shocked an already divided nation. While  Southerners branded the raid an act of treason and terror, Brown’s  bravery and eloquence made him a hero to many Northerners. The crisis  also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown’s  dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure the president once  labeled “a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale.”
In this riveting book, Tony Horwitz probes the troubled soul of  Brown, the desperate passion of his followers, and the spirit of a  sundered nation. The result is both a taut historical drama and a  telling portrait of a fiery time that still resonates in our own.
So, Do you think you’ll be reading his latest work?

Midnight Rising: A new book by Tony Horwitz

Today I was shopping on Amazon and in my recommended items section  was Tony Horwitz’s new book, Midnight Rising, releasing October 25, 2011. He is revisiting the Civil War era with his sixth book. I understand that there are mixed feelings for him in the reeanacting/living historian community due to his book, Confederates in the Attic. When we began researching for “The Reeanctors” this was one book we read. I even stated in my blog post concerning why I wanted to do this film that this book was a jumping off point for me in this documentary. (Many people took this the wrong way) I am not saying I agree with how he portrayed people or that I love the book. I am not trying to make his book come to life through this film. But I do enjoy his apporach. It sparked my interest in who the people are that reenact and how much character/passion they have. Below you will find the book description from his website. 

"Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry ruptured the union between North and South. Yet few Americans know the true story of the militant idealists who invaded Virginia before the Civil War. Now, Midnight Rising paints Brown’s uprising in vivid color, capturing a nation on the brink of explosive conflict.

Unlike most abolitionists, Brown was prepared to shed blood in the cause of freedom. After fighting against slavery in Bleeding Kansas, he secured money and guns from clandestine backers called the Secret Six, and convened a guerilla band that included three of his sons, his teenaged daughter, a former slave desperate to free his wife from bondage, and a dashing poet who acted as a spy inside Virginia. Then, late one autumn night in 1859, Brown marched from his mountain hideout into Harpers Ferry, seizing the town’s federal armory and vowing to liberate every slave in the South.

The bloody fight at Harpers Ferry prompted a counterattack by U.S. Marines under Robert E. Lee and shocked an already divided nation. While Southerners branded the raid an act of treason and terror, Brown’s bravery and eloquence made him a hero to many Northerners. The crisis also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown’s dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure the president once labeled “a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale.”

In this riveting book, Tony Horwitz probes the troubled soul of Brown, the desperate passion of his followers, and the spirit of a sundered nation. The result is both a taut historical drama and a telling portrait of a fiery time that still resonates in our own.

So, Do you think you’ll be reading his latest work?

Battle of Shiloh - 150th Reenactment
The website for the 150th of Shiloh is now up. Check it out for the latest information. 

Battle of Shiloh - 150th Reenactment

The website for the 150th of Shiloh is now up. Check it out for the latest information. 

This article written by the Washington Post discusses when and why Reenactors die in a battle reenactment. 

Looking for a New Reenactment!
As many of  you know we are no longer traveling to the 150th reenactment of Manassas  this week. We are currently looking for a new reenactment to involve in  our project!
We’re currently considering Shiloh or Antietam. Preferably  we’d like to do a 150th battle in 2012. However,  If anyone has a  different suggestion for us we’re more than happy to consider! Do you know of a great event in 2012?

Looking for a New Reenactment!

As many of you know we are no longer traveling to the 150th reenactment of Manassas this week. We are currently looking for a new reenactment to involve in our project!


We’re currently considering Shiloh or Antietam. Preferably we’d like to do a 150th battle in 2012. However, If anyone has a different suggestion for us we’re more than happy to consider! Do you know of a great event in 2012?

Civil War iPhone App.

We found this great interactive tool for exploring Virginia Civil War sites. We hope to see more apps like this pop up throughout the Sesquicentennial. Anyone else out there seen any cool Civil War/reenacting related apps?

Nick’s First Reenactment…

My tie to the reenacting world and my close friend, Dylan, convinced me that in order for me to understand the world of reenacting, it would be vital that I actually participated in one. He chose a more mainstream event - the 147th anniversary of the battle of Resaca, Ga. The rest, I suppose, is history.

Within 24 hours of landing in Atlanta, I find myself marching into battle, dressed in blue with the authentic living history group, the Armory Guards. We are portraying the 12th Missouri, which historically consisted of 90% German speaking soldiers. Dylan and I brushed up briefly in the car ride on the way, but really were only able to retain insults and how to say elementary phrases like “I drink water.”

Ricky, our fearless lieutenant, receives our battle orders for the day.
"Alright, achtung y’all," he says "we’re going to be skirmishers, y’all know what to do, but make sure to keep your intervals." I have no idea what he’s talking about, but go ahead and nod in agreement. Heck, I’m still not exactly sure how to take my belt off.
"I drink water," I say to Dylan in my finest German.

Before I know it, we are marching into battle. Canons boom around us as we close in on the enemy. A line of confederates advances on us. It’s terrifying. I remember thinking that there is no possible way I’d ever be brave enough to fight like this. My heart is racing as they take aim and fire their first volley. We all hit the dirt, no casualties yet.
"Fire at will!" Ricky shouts.
I shoulder my rifle, cock back the hammer, line up on a reloading confederate and squeeze the trigger. With a crack of the rifle, white smoke pours out of my barrel. The rebel pauses, looks at me, and continues reloading. We continue on like this for some time, shooting, reloading, all the bullets on both sides missing. Finally, our small unit of 10 men is completely surrounded. Time to die.

Lewis, our first sergeant, takes a hit early on, but has rejoined the ranks. Must have been a flesh wound. I hear Ricky shouting for us to take causalities. On the next volley, I go limp and fall face first into the dirt, Lewis dies beside me. It’s 90 degrees outside, so I decide to be injured instead of dead, so at least I can drink some water. Lewis rolls over and looks at me.
   
"Watch this, I’m going to try to save someone and get shot." He stands up, begins dragging a soldier by his suspenders, only to die a 3rd time. It’s too hot to die in the sun. I roll over and see a shady tree 100 feet back.

"Let’s go die over there," I say. Lewis is resurrected once again, and supporting each other, we hobble back to the shady tree to die in comfort. As the rebels retake our position, Dylan is capture, and Lewis and I enjoy yelling our newly learned German insults at them.

When the smoke clears, a round of “taps” resurrects us. Dylan says “I told you the battles are silly.” He’s right. Yet, most of the guys in our unit have ancestors that fought in the Civil War. I start to wonder about what they would think if they saw us playing war on a hallowed battlefield. I shake it off as we hike back up to the authentic camp in the woods. We pass by the mainstreamers. They are having taco night.

Later that night, I found my self laying flat on my back covered in wet rags, trying to cool down. My head was killing me, and my stomach was in all sorts of turmoil. The Georgia heat, bacon grease, potatoes, and hard tack were most likely the culprit. I’ve been living in Los Angeles too long. I’ve grown soft. Everyone in my unit checks on me to make sure I was OK, they offer me items from their packs, food, water, and aspirin. Later Dylan walks up with a fowl smelling tin cup.

"Drink it," he says, "it’ll make you feel better." I oblige, might as well, I already agreed to sleep on a rubber mat in the middle of the woods. I take a long draw of the mystery drink. Disgusting.

"What the hell is this?"
"Coffee and whiskey!"  He howls.

I take another sip and next thing I know I’m back on my feet, just about as cheerful as ever. We spend the rest of the night joking and laughing, and the guys all are willing to field my many questions about a soldiers life. And trust me when I say, these guys know their stuff. I learned more about the Civil War at this reenactment than I have in my lifetime. Later, I take off my boots, roll my coat into a pillow, and ignoring my misery, drift into a comfortable sleep. Somewhere around then I realize what it’s all about.

Reenacting is not about just the battles. Though spectators do enjoy them, and I’ve heard people ask some really important and compelling questions after witnessing one. Reenacting is about history. The Armory Guards have read the first person accounts, poured through the photographs, and have taken years to learn about the lives of these men. Though there are moments when grown men take about fabric and soldiers die 3-4 deaths on the field, the true core of reenacting is true and just. It’s about remembering and teaching history, something groups like the Armory Guards do very well.

In the car ride back, after the most delicious steak I’ve ever had, I remembered wondering what our ancestors would think of this. Perhaps some would be upset to see us reenacting such a horrible time in our history. However, I think most would see us, with both Confederate and Federal ancestors, coming together across job descriptions, income, and backgrounds. They would see us not forgetting where they fought, how they fought, and most importantly why they fought. They would be happy to see us, sitting around the campfire, drinking whiskey and coffee, remembering their stories. They would witness us sharing our food, our water, and our supplies openly and willingly. They would be glad to see reenactors taking a weekend to suffer a little bit to honor their name. Most importantly, however, they would be relieved to see, at least for those moments, that we are no longer fighting.

Manassas National Battlefield: Monument
Photograph by Brad Waldron, employee of Manassas National Battlefield. 

Manassas National Battlefield: Monument

Photograph by Brad Waldron, employee of Manassas National Battlefield.