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Photo Gallery of Soldiers and Friends










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Soldiers of a Faux War

March 26, 2014

I shall remain forever confused by the desire of some people to reenact battles, to shoot glorified cap pistols at each other, sleep on the ground, eat almost nothing and pretend it is anything like a real war.

First of all, these guys and gals don't like to be called "Civil War Reenactors,"  We are to understand that they are practitioners of  "Living History."

Fort Fisher, Fort Anderson and the Battle of Forks Road around Wilmington, North Carolina... we relived them all in one form or another. Far more than the battles, we enjoyed talking to  the "living historians" and trying to understand the motivation to partake in such an all consuming activity - or, for that matter, to even to watch such a thing.  At the end of the battle, Really?, did everyone watching clap and cheer as the dead arose and ascended to the snack tent?

Photo Gallery of Soldiers and Friends



Out of some kind of possibly misguided sense of decorum, I am unable to use the quotes I gathered from some of the civil war re-enactors I spoke with. All were charming and talkative - but, be assured, all forms of prejudice - including - racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny, ableism, xenophobia, love of guns and hatred of the federal government - Obama in particular- are alive and well in the hearts of the "romantic souls" who make up many of the Confederate soldier reenactors.

And so, early in my conversations, I stopped taking notes and started sketching faces instead. Wonderful stuff. Great faces - strong and passionate, yet sad because every year there are fewer old soldiers and almost no young people interested in taking up the cause or continuing the battle.

These well-fed fellows, with few exceptions, hardly resembled the skeletal soldiers seen lying dead on battlefields in the faded old photographs of Gardner, Brady and O'Sullivan. Also, it is hard to take too seriously a battle where after being shot dead and falling dramatically across the earthen fortifications, the corpse, after a minute or so, crawls back into the shade or slips on his sunglasses.

The men acting as part of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) were much more understandable. They were seeking to honor their ancestors who joined the Union Army, who if not killed in battle, would surely be slaughtered if captured by the Confederate Army. These men were involved in careful research in order to develop a character they could be, as well as setting up and taking the time to teach kids who would listen and share their history.

I guess pretend carnage is just not for me, but I loved drawing the faces and making the collage below. (Tap picture to read quotes.)


(click to enlarge)

Note: One of the faces in the collage is that of our beloved young friend, Mark Hatfield III. Mark served two tours in Iraq, but was unable to continue his life after returning home. He walks beside us - always.

Great story, drawings and photos. I really enjoyed this!

Melissa C.

Peg--Love your sketches and descriptions of the people taking part in the reinactments. It's excactly the stereotypical, ignorant and predjudiced southern male we all envision them as being.

Although, I'm sure there are some that just like the Civil War history and just find it fun.

John P.

Hello Gorgeous - Just finished your latest blog. Re: "what's a little lady like you carryin' a great big camera – etc." I suggest you tell them that your husband has his hands full carryin' somethin' else around!


Love to all three of you!
Bob and Jimmy

I hope the re-enacters are impressed by the dignity your excellent photographs lend to their persons and activities. Beautifully done. Timothy O'Sullivan (and Sully) would be proud.


You might like to see reenactors in the made for TV movie "Gettysburg" based on the novel "The Killer Angels." The reennactment of Pickett's charge is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3po17QbHLRQ (it is preceded by a Walmart add).

Martin Sheen played Robert E. Lee and lesser known actors played the principal general officers.

Your little brother

Alternate universe is right! Faux or not, your photo journalism is always interesting and informative. I forgot these reenactments really do exist.

You two just happen upon the strange and bizzare all the time! I'm jealous!

Donna K.

It is a different mindset, for sure. I think it also has to do with the difference between men and women. Men have to act out aggression in different ways. For those uneducated rednecks, Civil War reenactment is the way to accomplish this. For the educated male, this aggression is acted out in the boardroom, courtroom, trading floor on Wall Street, government career ladder, etc. Women seek compromise and knit. Very good quote.

I spent last weekend in NYC with family and friends. Also saw the Paul Taylor Dance Company and Bridges of Madison County, the musical, on Broadway. Mr. Cinkaid was played by a very good looking and talented young actor, but he was no Clint Eastwood! And Francesca's Italian accent did no even come close to Meryl Streep's! Oh well!! Now I am tempted to see the movie for the fourth time.


Feedback: Pretty cool stuff. And you are quite the artist Peg....

Marty W.

Faux combat, c'est meilleur que la realite de la guerre, n'est pas?

It does bring home some realities of how awful the 1860's were for warfare, not a bad thing in an academically historical era.


I share your enthusiasm for fake battles. At least it isn't 27 degrees and snowing down there :>(


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