Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Seeing the Elephant, A recollection from the line of battle

Standing behind the barricade I looked out across the field. I seen the line of blue coated soldiers emerge from the opposing tree line at roughly five hundred yards out.  Every instinct in my body was telling me to go ahead and shoot. My fingers grasped my musket tightly. The skirmishers out front, kneeling behind their log protection, began to waiver on our immediate left. From somewhere behind me, the First Sergeant repeats the order given from the Captain. "Alight, let'em have it!"
A mixed sensation of training and survival instinct swept over me as I raised my musket, took aim, and let the hammer drop. Everything around me faded to background. The Cannons firing to the left and right, my fellow comrades, all seemed to be in slow motion as I watched the blue coated soldiers come nearer and nearer. I was scared to look away as my hand fumbled to remove a cartridge from my cartridge box. Never taking my eyes off the enemy I placed the cartridge to my mouth and tore it open with my teeth. At great risk I looked to the top of my musket barrel to see what I was doing. I poured the contents down the barrel. raising the musket up and resting it over my cap box. I again look down range to see the Union soldiers even closer than before. My hand fumbled for a cap. I then placed it on the cone under the hammer. I then locked the hammer back to full cock. raised the rifle, and then fired. After several shots the enemy fell back. A sudden wave of excitement came over me as I yelled at the retreating Yankees. "Come on back!" and then a few whoops and yelps.

This was my first experience as a American Civil War reenactor. I had officially seen the elephant. For a brief moment in time the trappings of the modern world fell away and I was transported 150 years ago to some nameless battle. This is when the moment of clarity hit me. For the first time since researching my ancestors who fought so long ago, I had a taste of what it was like to actually "be there." Though relatively safe, the feeling was still present. I come away with a greater respect for the men on both sides of the conflict. It must have taken a great amount of personal courage to stand in a long line with others knowing that you could possibly never see another sunset. Yet, with almost the certainty of death looming over their shoulder, they continued on.

Driving home that Saturday evening, I contemplated my revelation to my wife as our daughter slept in the backseat. She made a point to mention that my service in Iraq was different but, In most respects it was the same. Duty, Honor, and Respect seem to be timeless principles.
I felt humbled. I felt like most reenactors do. When I put on that uniform from this time period and lived the life of a soldier for a day, I felt like I am honoring the memory of these brave souls. Through reenactors, the past comes alive in brilliant color. It is no longer some dried bit of information in a old book. As a reenactor, you are a living, breathing, interactive knowledge base on the lives of a Civil War soldier. I can tell you  that it is an interesting feeling being the voice of the past.

Next up;  Old Clinton War Days in Clinton Ga. First weekend in May.
I'm still working on some articles from interviews I have conducted.
There are a more equipment, historical figures, profiles coming as well.
I am continuing my Wargaming Army as well.

We will be changing the name of the blog at the end of the month to reflect the larger scope of interests this blog covers. The new name will be active  the first week of April.
Please follow this blog so you won't miss out on the change.

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