We were fortunate to have Civil War Reenactors at Point Park over the weekend. They were portraying the life of a Confederate Soldier. The six men and two little boys were all dressed in authentic 1860’s uniforms and lived, over the weekend, as they would if they had been soldiers at Lookout Mountain in 1863.
They only had the basics with them, as was fitting for a Confederate soldier. Soldiers were told to drop their knapsacks when they went into battle so they could move faster. Often, however, when they went back to collect the knapsacks after the battle, the knapsacks were looted or gone. Confederate soldiers were not able to resupply as easily as the Union soldiers. As the war went on, most of the confederate soldiers carried a blanket, their gun, 60 rounds of ammunition, and enough rations for two days. Our reenactors were committed to realism, so that is all that most of them had.
The soldiers at Point Park were very popular over the weekend. They talked to the visitors and gave four or five demonstrations a day on marching, war maneuvers, and shooting muskets. There are nine steps to loading a musket like those used during the Civil War. 1. Place gun on ground in hold position. 2. Take cartridge out of ammunition box. 3. Rip open paper cartridge with teeth. 4. Pour contents of cartridge (powder and minnie ball) into gun barrel. 5. Draw rammer. 6. Ram cartridge to bottom of barrel. 7. Take rammer out of barrel and return to proper position. 8. Place a percussion cap to ignite the gunpowder. 9. Shoulder arms to show your commanding officer that you are ready to fire. In perfect circumstances, a soldier could load and fire his musket three or four times per minute. Consequently, soldiers would often stand in two ranks (lines) very close together. As one rank fired, the other rank would load. This would allow a company of soldiers to fire up to eight times per minute, a fairly constant hail of deadly bullets.
The uniform of a Confederate soldier was not very uniform, especially as the war went on. Most of them men wore what their family sent them. Uniforms were generally butternut or gray. Soldiers from Texas, whose army had captured a Union uniform depot at San Antonio, wore Union uniforms, which sometimes caused confusion on the battlefield. Soldiers from Texas tended to get fired on by Union and Confederate armies in the heat of the battle. The only way they could be distinguished from Union troops was by their unit flag.
The Confederate soldier reenactors at Point Park are from Alabama. They participate in many events over the year and most of them have Union and Confederate uniforms. This way, when they arrive at an event, they can fill in with what is needed to make the event as realistic as possible. The men are very proud of being as authentic as possible including wearing hobnailed boots which they said can be very slippery when they go to do demonstrations at schools!
I really enjoyed talking to the men reenacting the life of the Confederate soldier at Point Park. They were committed and passionate about being realistic down to every detail. They give a great deal of volunteer time to educating people and making history come alive.