A few weeks back I learned that the largest Civil War re-enactment was held annually just 40 minutes north on the 2nd weekend in August. I was excited. I am not a fan of war at all but that period of time and that particular War… feels so familiar. As a Genealogy “nurd” I spent some recent time with my ancestors, focusing specifically on those who experienced this War. The Union appeared to be well represented on both sides of my family but I did find one family on mom’s side where grandfather lived in Georgia, served the Confederacy and owned at least one slave, but son served in the Union.
My research also found that the family men who served were sometimes not men at all but young boys. 2nd Grt Uncle Joseph Bucher enlisted when he was 14 years old, a month after his older brother, Martin had enlisted. Joseph mustered out in two months. My 2nd Grt Grandfather Zachariah Taylor Seymour, must have looked older as he initially enlisted when he was only 9 but was mustered out in only 2 days. He apparently tried again 2 years later, at age 12. This time he kept trying to get out, being arrested several times as a deserter and was even found in a wagon, drunk. Reward for his capture was $30.00. With these stories in my head, I had an emotional reaction seeing the young faces re-enacting events and hearing the commander’s prays for fearlessness and God’s protection on the battlefield.
So I took in the whole scene. The crack of the rifles, the sulfur smell of gun shot. The sound of cannon hit you in the gut and thumped the ground beneath your feet. The 9 year old watching beside me looked up and we both went, “Whoa!” I saw the agonizing slowness of muzzle loading. I watched the random, disorganized line of Confederate soldiers and the precision and “one-ness” of the Union. And it was all familiar…
The Cavalry was where my heart was throughout and I couldn’t get enough. Horses were not ridden into battle. They were considered too valuable. Riders dismounted and their horses were lead away from the battle ground. One rider leading away 4 horses is not an easy feat, especially with the energy of battle going on.
I got close enough to smell horse sweat and I was in heaven…
My Grt Grt Uncles, Joseph and Martin, both enlisted as musicians. The fife and drum were the primary instruments used and I spent time with the musicians at this event, learning the drum calls and listening to the songs of the period.
The bugle became the primary instrument later in the War, providing a means to give orders from afar to both the infantry and the cavalry. A good deal of time was spent teaching and learning the different calls.
I had planned to leave by early afternoon but I didn’t / couldn’t leave. I felt like I was re-living a time I had experienced before.
Perhaps I had been a father, leaving behind a son, or perhaps I was the son being left behind. Whatever the reason, when I finally did leave, it took a while to return to 2015. I know what drives those to re-enact.