Tag Archives: civil war reenacting

My life’s other career

Music has always been a pretty big part of my life. As a youngster, I wanted to be a rock star along the lines of KISS, Queen, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin…well, you get the idea. I’d had a little piano—just enough to know the notes but not enough to really play them—and that was it. My Jr. High buddies (Wynndel Stanton, Mike Harris, Kendall Jones) and I wanted to put together a band and so we decided which instruments we’d play and set out to learn them. I was to be the drummer.

So, as a seventh grader, I went to the school band director and told him that I wanted to learn to play drums. No, I didn’t have any drumming experience—that’s why I wanted to learn. But, he said no. I got mad and went home and spent the next year self-teaching myself. To this day I still can’t read drum music, but I can play it if I hear it—I play all by ear.

As happens in school, folks move, etc…our band would also see our other good friends serve stints (Grey Overstreet, Forrest Welker and Scott Cook—Scott had a really cool synthesizer!) with us and we actually learned out to play. We played for the school when I was in 9th grade, and then won the school talent contest when I was in 11th—we won by doing “Just What I Needed” by The Cars. I also provided lead vocals for that one! Ha

After high school, I bought a new drum set, the band split up and then I recorded with a small Christian artist out of Terry, Mississippi. I had the chance to play with a really great bass player—Tim Heape. It was fun. Regrettably, I can only now locate one of the songs we recorded…and that’s on cassette.

I didn’t play much after that until a guy I worked with at Camelot Music (Jeff Albritton) got the idea to put something together. We tried, but could never really get anything going—seems college was getting in the way of most folks we knew. We did, however, manage to get the opportunity to jam with Stevie Blaze, a guitarist who went on to record several albums with the band Lillian Axe.

The drums went into storage when I moved to Hattiesburg to attend USM…and there they stayed until around 2000. Oh sure, I pulled them out now and again to play them some, but I didn’t really play them much until I was recruited by a local Civil War Reenactment group to be a drummer. Now that was interesting! I’d always played sitting down before… trying to play while marching was like trying to hit a moving target.

I eventually caught on and became the Battalion drummer. It was fun.

When we joined FBC Loretto, TN., my now-good-friend and music minister there wanted to put together a praise band. I volunteered quickly and in no time flat was playing the drums as part of the regular service both morning and night. I know that some in the congregation had mixed feelings about the drums, but it was an incredible worship experience for me.

The drums, alas, are now back on a shelf, waiting for the next opportunity.

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Civil War reenacting

While anyone who spends any length of time talking to me knows my enthusiasm for that period in American history from 1860-1861, one of the things a lot of folks don’t know about me is that I’m also a civil war reenactor…yes, one of those folks who puts on multi-layers of authentic thick wool and run around on a battlefield shooting authentic replicas. And man is it fun! reenacting1

I blame it all on my friend Dr. Kevin Gray. I met Dr. Gray shortly after we moved to Florence, Ala in 1998. I attended a Sons of Confederate Veterans meeting with him and he learned I could also play a little on the drums. I’d been to a couple of smaller reenactments and had an interest in it, but I’d never known anyone before who was a reenactor. Within weeks, he had me marching barefooted in a cemetery for a dedication of a fallen black Confederate. In a little more than a year, I was fully equipped with all my own equipment, including a uniform, much of which was hand-sewn (in order to be authentic) by my Mom!

I attended several smaller event throughout 1999, but what really got me was the event in September of that year at Chickamauga. It hadn’t rained for months and a severe drought was in the area. Thus, afterwards, the event earned itself the nickname “Dustamauga,” because of all the dust created by twelve thousand reenactors.

That’s right. You read correct. 12,000. 12k. While there were a bunch of civilian reenactors there (doctors, families, etc. all period), there were roughly 5,000 Yanks and 5,000 Rebs. On Saturday morning we marched for about three miles up and down hills. After some time, and while still in column marching, we began to hear cannons and gunfire. Finally, we topped a hill and spread out in the valley before us was a line of solid blue, stretching from one end to the other.

reenacting2Talk about a time-traveling moment. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up!

Many reenactors live for that moment—that one moment when the excitement of the activity causes their mind to “time travel” back for just a second. Hard to describe unless you’ve been there.

One of the most frustrating things about reenacting, however, is when the “other side” doesn’t play fair. Most of the battle engagements are scripted and the commanders know when they’re supposed to do what and about how many men should die. The problem comes when the other side doesn’t die. I’ve seen battles where a line of about 200 men fire into another line across the way…and not a single enemy falls out. It’s things like that that cause the reenactments to lose their reality, not just for the reenactor, but for the spectator—who’s usually paid money—as well. reenacting9

What most onlookers don’t realize is the amount of time, energy, research and effort put in by most reenactors to get an authentic look. We’re talking even the type of stitching used in clothing is studied!

While I haven’t had the opportunity to get on the battlefield in some time, I’m itching to do so. Not only is it great fun, it’s great for families and it’s a history lesson to boot!

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