'We Try To Be As Realistic As Possible, But The Point Is Nobody's Dying Out There'It was a cold and rainy day in late autumn 1864 when Col. John Bell Hood led 30,000 Confederate troops north toward Nashville, Tenn.
It was a warm and sunny day in late summer 2003 when The Northwest Civil War Council re-enacted the Battle of Franklin, Tenn., at Fort Stevens State Park.
The weather was all wrong, the soldiers were actors, and an audience decked out in T-shirts and jeans watched the battle with delight. But aside from those distractions, Civil War re-enactors said their performance Monday was pretty accurate.
Flag bearers mix with soldiers and musicians on the battlefield.
LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian"We try to be as realistic as possible, but the point is nobody's dying out there," said Confederate Lt. Col. Joe Cross, commander of the artillery.
"I don't think you could ever really appreciate ... what the soldiers went through," he said.
Cross's alter ego works at Safeway. He's been doing re-enactments for 28 years, since he was 14.
A young re-enactor plays the part of a wounded soldier on the battlefield.
LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian"I've always been interested in history. It was just natural to start doing re-enactments," he said.
He and the rest of the troops camped and performed from Saturday to Monday. They were all tired, Cross said, but "it's a good tired."
"I think everyone has fun," he said. "More importantly, what we do it for is to instill in the public what the Civil War really was."
Dying for a CauseAs Cross explains the history of the Battle of Franklin, the Confederate troops behind him shout, "Hail, Caesar! We who are about to die salute you."
Members of a Confederate artillery crew plug their ears as they fire a cannon at Union soldiers.
LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian"The Confederate army was severely demoralized at that battle," Cross said.
The war council's re-enactments are scripted, so members of the Confederacy knew they were going to lose Monday's battle ahead of time. As they marched to their deaths, each soldier wore a grim expression.
Erik Wood, chairman of the council and Confederate chaplain, said he has committed many souls to the Lord in his six years on the council.
"He seems to keep sending them back," Wood joked. Because the council doesn't have 30,000 re-enactors, during the battles "dead" soldiers inconspicuously rise to fight again.
"We call it recycling," he said.
Wood also hopes to educate the public about the causes and effects of the Civil War.
"Before the Civil War we were a collection of states. After the Civil War, we were one country," Wood said.
"The war was really about economics and self-determination: the right of states to determine what was going to happen with them and the right to have all of the states share in the financial burden of the government," he said.
Bring on the BandIn hand-to-hand combat at the conclusion of the battle, the brave souls fall one by one.
LORI ASSA - The Daily AstorianSulfur filled the air as the re-enactment began. The Confederate band marched confidently onto the battlefield and stood to the side while troops lined up and fired at each other. Suddenly, a drummer dropped to the ground. One by one, his band mates followed until but a few were left. They retreated.
The ground shook with a cannon blast then Confederate troops yelled as they charged the Union line. Soldiers fell randomly, more on the Confederate side than on the Union side.
Jessica Danker, from Oregon City, and her daughters, six-month-old Amy, and 21/2-year-old Sarah camp out at Fort Stevens over the holiday weekend. The family is in its first season of re-enacting.
LORI ASSA - The Daily AstorianThe Confederate band picked up new members and marched out again. Once more, they were picked off one by one ... until a single drummer was left standing. He bravely drummed away until he fell - very, very dramatically. The audience voiced a sympathetic "aw."
Gunfire exploded on both sides and the crowd roared as many Confederate soldiers dropped at once.
"We're not done yet!" came a final battle cry from the Confederacy.
But soon, they were. Confederate troops charged the Union line and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. The battle ended with the wail of a trumpet.
Women's RolesLacey Hult, a woman with the Union's 14th Brooklyn Infantry, watched the battle from the sidelines. She's been re-enacting for three years and enjoys the weekend-long camp out and historically accurate events.
A soldier on horseback races across the field during the re-enactment of the Battle of Franklin Monday afternoon.
LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian"It's like a big, happy party," she said, and it's all 1860s style.
Hult plans to disguise herself as a man next year and sneak into the battle.
Lorraine Olson, also with the 14th Brooklyn Infantry, did that last year.
After watching the battle from the embankment, re-enactors, from left, Tammy Kelland, of Donald, Rachel Duncan, a 20-year-old from Seattle, and Aria Kelland, an 11-year-old from Donald, eat a snack on the way back to the camp.
LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian"It's really different because you have to try really, really hard to adapt the mannerisms of a man," Olson said.
If a woman is caught impersonating a soldier, she will be kicked out of the re-enactment, the same as she would have been kicked out of camp during the war. But Olson was willing to take that risk and disguised herself as a fifer.
"I wanted to play the fight," she said.
But if it were really 1864, Olson said she probably wouldn't have done it.
"Just because I would have been brought up differently."