Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reenactors in Texas

150 years after the real thing, Civil War re-enactors fight just for the fun of it

Posted Saturday, Apr. 24, 2010

Before the drumbeats began and a smell of gunpowder filled the air, the great-great-grandson of Confederate soldier W.C. Moore sat outside a small canvas tent and pondered his impending fate. Raymie Moore is a Civil War re-enactor. As a weekend hobby the bearded 50-year-old Gatesville man puts on a gray wool uniform, sights in his Whitworth rifle and shoots at Yankees.
The Yankees shoot back.

Moore sometimes escapes the fierce fighting, victorious and unscathed. During other skirmishes he will "take a hit" and drop to the ground like a slow-handed gunfighter in a Western movie.
If mortally wounded, he will do his best to lie there still as a statue. "You try," Moore said, "not to fall in a fire-ant bed."

Those noisy engagements continue for a predetermined period, at the end of which the volunteer actors -- dead and alive -- dust themselves off and return to the comforts of the 21st century, each side harboring no ill will toward the other. In defeat, the sons of the South can find a measure of solace in Scarlett O'Hara's declaration of unwavering optimism: "Tomorrow is another day."

150th anniversary

This is Confederate History and Heritage month.

Every April and throughout the year, Moore and other Texans travel to locations near and far to participate in these outdoor living history events. Civil War battles are re-enacted almost every weekend somewhere.

Interest in the most divisive period in U.S. history is expected to increase in the next few years as tens of thousands of Confederate and Union re-enactors commemorate the 150th anniversaries of major battles. Bull Run. Antietam. Chancellorsville. Gettysburg. Chickamauga.

Moore's outfit -- the Coryell County Sharpshooters -- and other re-enactment groups, including one from Tuscaloosa, Ala., staged two battles last weekend at the Confederate Reunion Grounds State Historic Site, a wooded 76-acre property near Mexia.

No Civil War battle was fought there, but 3 of 4 free men in Limestone County served in the Confederate army. Half were killed, wounded, went missing or developed chronic conditions that led to death. Moore can't tell you the total number of Federals he has "shot" over the years, nor can he estimate the number of times he has gone down while defending the honor of his ancestor from Rusk who fought in the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863.

Sometimes casualties are scripted. "Years ago, they lined you up and counted off, 'One, two, three ... one, two, three,'" Moore said, pointing in pantomime. "All the 'threes' died when a flag was raised." Now, he said, a re-enactor's destiny is usually left up to individual discretion.
"If it's real hot," Moore said, "and I'm tarred" -- tired -- "I'll get shot and lay down with my canteen."

The retired Texas prison system employee is a pleasant, outgoing fellow, blessed with a sense of humor and a gift for making music. He plays the banjo and the fiddle, but, as he observes with a grin, "not at the same time." Away from the battlefield, he enjoys picking his Earl Scruggs banjo and sawing jigs and reels on a vintage fiddle.