Aiken, South Carolina schedules a Civil War re-enactment every February, the Battle of Aiken. Come rain or shine, the re-enactment takes place between Union and Confederate cavalry, infantry, and artillery units, representing the history of one of the last battles in 1865.
Men, women, and even children make an annual pilgrimage from all over the U.S. to the event and dress up to the era of the 1860s. Several of them encamp in harsh conditions, such as the case of this year. They braved the inclement weather conditions this past weekend, the three inches of rain and the forty degree temperatures. The morning camp air was filled with the smell of musky smoke and pine needles. And the re-enactors warm their hands and feet telling tales of their other battle re-enactments.
Several Civil War re-enactors are history teachers or war veterans, having to spend their hard earnings for the replica muskets, side-arms, swords, and other artifacts. Their dedication involves traveling and setting up with their brigades. To them, it's more than a hobby, but rather a lifestyle.
The war between the states lives in the hearts of these re-enactors. Many of them can provide full details of Civil War battles, the names of generals and important heroes, and lecture on the culture of that day. Some have photos, 1860s news articles and hand-made albums depicting the war.
Walking the paths, past the encampments, campfires, and viewing their living quarters, the off-white tents, seems to transform the visitor back in time. Even the blackened cookware is a reminder of a more difficult and rudimentary times.
Off in the distance, the music of a small band can be heard playing a fiddle, a banjo, and primitive drum. For that era, this would be equivalent of listening to radio music. Entertainment was also limited to story-tellers around the campfires. The re-enactors took their portrayal of the troops and families of the 1860s before the battle.
And, as for the battle, there was the continual fire of muskets and cannons, generals shouting orders, bugle sounding the attack and retreat. After all the smoke settled into the harsh and cold country field, those playing the part, wounded and dead, became an eerie reminder of the less than glory of war.
The re-enactors were resurrected to fight another battle for another day.