Re-enactors battle to keep Civil War a lively subject
By ROSA MERCADO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
A UNION SOLDIER LINES UP NEXT TO A Confederate soldier as the captain shouts the orders for a weapons inspection.
They prop their muskets up for the captain's meticulous eye.
The year is 2002.
Cpl. Steffon Jones, the Union soldier, and Capt. John Bummer, the Confederate, are demonstrating what will occur at the fifth annual Re-enactment and Living History program, at 1 p.m. Saturday and next Sunday at Mill Creek Park's Lanterman's Mill.
Organizers expect 100 or more spectators to attend this year's re-enactment. Each year the number of spectators has increased, said Jones, of Youngstown.
The event will feature dueling, skits, drummers, a medical tent and a few surprises, he said. It will be hosted by the 5th U.S. Colored Troops of Ohio, Company I, and the 4th Alabama.
Jones, who has been doing Civil War re-enactments since 1996, said an interest in the past runs in his family. His mother, Joyce Love, his uncle and his grandfather got him interested in history when he was 12 years old. He became interested in the Civil War after reading about the conflict at the library.
"I always wondered why the soldiers lined up to get shot like that; it didn't make sense to me," Jones said.
Re-enactors clearly enjoy the time they spend on the battlefield. The battles are not planned ahead of time, giving the re-enactment a spontaneous and realistic feel.
"It's just like grown men in little boys' bodies," Jones explained. "It's fun reliving the history, plus making all the friends over the years."
Bummer, from Campbell, said that living histories are re-enactments of life as a Civil War soldier. The re-enactors act out everyday activities such as cooking, making bullets and putting up tents.
They sometimes do living histories at elementary schools.
"Kids are interested in learning about this, as long as you give it to them in a manner that they can understand," said Bummer, who is a part of 4th Alabama Company C.
As one of the founding members of the 5th U.S. Colored Troops, Company I, Jones thinks it's important to remember the role of black Civil War soldiers.
"They fought, bled and died just like the white soldiers did," said Jones. He also explained that black soldiers were paid less than their white counterparts until 1864.
"Your average black sergeant was making a private's pay. Black soldiers received about $10 a month -- that's $7 for himself, and $3 went toward his uniform."
Jones said keeping the authentic appearance of the Civil War can be expensive. The total cost of a complete Union or Confederate uniform, along with the weapons typically used, can be as much as $1,000. Jones' gun cost $340.
"These are reproductions of the actual artillery of the Civil War. The guns really can fire, but no bullets are used," Jones explained. He added that the guns go through an inspection before each battle as a precaution.
Tom Mechling, manager of Lanterman's Mill, described re-enactments as good learning experiences.
"A lot of people really don't know what the Civil War is about. It wasn't just a slavery issue, but that was the most popular issue at the time," Mechling said.
Dan Graban, a 16-year-old Confederate soldier taking part in the re-enactments, wouldn't want to be anywhere else but on the battlefield.
"It gets me out of the house," Graban said. "Seriously, what could be better than standing in line shooting at 10,000 people?"