Monday, November 19, 2012

Ghosts of Battles Past


Once upon a time, Camp Moore was the largest Confederate training camp in Louisiana. More than 30,000 troops passed through here on their way to places like Shiloh, Manassas, and Gettysburg. When the Confederate General John Breckinridge (a former vice president of the United States) launched his attempt to retake Baton Rouge in August of 1862, Camp Moore was his staging area. It remained the center of resistance to Federal efforts to conquer Louisiana until the fall of 1864, when the site was finally overrun.


Virtually nothing is left today--just a cemetery, a small but excellent museum, and a lot of ghosts. But once a year it's the site of a Civil War reenactment, and this past weekend Steve and I finally made it up there to watch.


I know people who place reenactments--especially Civil War reenactments--somewhere on a sliding scale between weird and disturbing. But I find them an odd mixture of fun and profoundly thought provoking. For a writer of historical fiction, they can be fascinating. Did you know that artillery changed very little from the time of Sebastian St. Cyr to the Civil war? If you want to write about about canon fire and musket volleys, nothing beats actually hearing them.


Over 800 men are buried in the cemetery there, most of them laid low not by Yankees but by measles, pneumonia, and dysentery. Many of their names are known, but the locations of the actual graves were lost when the victorious Federals pulled up the wooden grave markers and burned them. How nasty is that?


And for the record, the only Civil War veterans I've found on my family tree were all Yankees!

14 comments:

paz said...

My youngest boy is Abraham Lincoln-mad, and has been so for several years. Last March we traveled to Harper's Ferry, Antietam and Gettysburg. I do not know if they classify as "reenactors," but the docents at each of these places made the history very much alive for my children. They all had very interesting reflections about the events that have happened there, and have continued to make reference to those memories since.

Full Disclosure: We are also Renaissance Faire junkies. (No sci-fi convention stuff, though).

Charles Gramlich said...

I've never seen a reenactment up close and would really like to. gonna have to check out more about this site.

cs harris said...

Paz, your son certainly has a lot of Lincoln-themed films to go to this year! I suspect most people who love history find themselves attracted to reenactments. They have a Renaissanc Fair here that I'm always meaning to attend but never quite seem to make it to.

Charles, there's a big one the last weekend in March at Port Hudson that we want to try to make it to. I think you'd love them!

Sonia said...

I worked for an archivist once who was a re-enactor, but I think it was the Revolution rather than the Civil War. People (his coworkers) used to tease him that it was a way for grown men to play dress up and get away with it. I too think battle re-enactments are more than a little strange, but I don't really have a leg to stand on because I really enjoy going to Colonial Williamsburg and Plymouth Plantation and the like, which are really nothing more than re-enactments on a grand scale.

cs harris said...

Sonia, I think it's definitely a way for adults to get to play dress up! I'm fascinated by the detail they go to in trying to get everything right. I asked a woman there about her hoops, and she hauled up her skirts to show me everything--she'd made it all by hand.

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