Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bentonville - 150th anniversary

Every five years, the historical society puts on a re-enactment of the battle of Bentonville. It's awesome. They have lectures, shops in tents (all kinds of historical gift shops - flags, clothes, material, hats, name it! as well as books  and momentos), and displays of tent life from soliders and the people who followed the armies around. The Harper House, which was claimed by both sides at different points and used as a field hospital (the old wood floors still sport darkened spots which are claimed to be blood stains), and then the fields nearby also became small graveyards.  It's sad, but it's also a good reminder that nothing is free, and sometimes that price is quite high.

There used to be a lot of "purists" (those who think things should be exact replicas), but that is changing more and more with each re-enactment. We saw people in period clothing using their cell phones, both for talking and taking pictures, and more and more reenactors must have their clothes tailor made as very few Americans today can wear the clothing made for people back then. Not only are we taller, but we're also much, much fatter. It's hard to grasp how hungry the troops were at this point, even with the hardtack and dried beans being displayed in the tents and around the fires at the field camps, nor the soldiers making jokes/complaining about their being no more chickens on any of the nearby farms (the joke in Raleigh after Sherman's troops came through was that the only chicken left in the city was the metal one on the Episcopalian's steeple). The soldiers today reflect society today...very obese. We also saw something new  yesterday...a LOT of women soldiers. I know a lot of reenactors are dying out and people of my generation are not stepping up to fill their spots. I know there were many women soldiers during the civil war, but most of them disguised themselves as men. Cut their hair, etc. These women were clearly women, though most of them did bun their hair or at least put in a pony tail. But it's hard to say it's authentic when you know few men during that era would have willingly fought alongside a woman. There were a few men whose wives fought alongside them, but they were also disguised as men, with only their husbands knowing. When it finally became suspected, many were sent home, though a few captains allowed them to stay and fight as long as the other partner was fighting. I think I counted at least 15 women reenactors yesterday, and there may have been more.

We sat on a different section of the field from the previous two times, but the battle was also laid out in a different way from previous years. We saw a lot more of the action from both sides. I didn't take my good camera this year because I figured most of the action would be down the hill and almost out of view, but I was able to get quite a few good shots with my pocket camera.

I can't post everything today, but I would list as it as the best of the three reenactments I've seen there. I'll try to post some of my favorite pictures a little each day this week.

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