Gold braid abounded as a pantheon of Confederate heroes turned out for the Antietam 150th re-enactment.
Courtesy of Lee’s Lieutenants, the BDN’s Pat Horne and I encountered legend after legend while touring the camps at Legacy Manor Farm in Sharpsburg, Md. on Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. Maine’s own Joshua Chamberlain and Pennsylvania’s irascible George Gordon Meade were there — but we quickly realized that Confederate officers had turned out en masse for the three-day re-enactment.
I was impressed when Confederate infantry marched past us while en route to a drilling and rifle-firing demonstration for visitors gathered near Sutler Village. Imagine my surprise when, after interviewing Professor Thaddeus Lowe and his father, Clovis, we saw the perpetually red-shirted Gen. Ambrose Powell (as in “A.P” of Antietam fame) Hill emerge from a nearby tent. Spotting the camera, he politely posed for a quick three frames.
That was actor and historian Patrick Falci, who portrays A.P. Hill at various Civil War events. He met with re-enactment visitors at 2 p.m., Saturday, to talk about scurrying from Harper’s Ferry to defeat the last — and should’ve been most successful — Union assault on Lee’s battered army at Sharpsburg.
Lee’s Lieutenants (www.leeslieutenants.com) is a re-enactment group that recently merged with Pickett’s Game Cocks, named, of course, after George Pickett of July 3, 1863 fame. Each re-enactor portrays a particular Confederate persona — which explains why Robert E. Lee (Al Stone) drew so much attention during the weekend.
Lee remains a hero for many Civil War buffs.
Seated beneath a tent overhang, Lee chatted with Union Gen. George Meade. Nearby, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart sat squarely stop his horse while conveying orders to a Confederate cavalryman. I’m not sure who played Stuart, but he looked realistic, even to the reddish tint to his beard.
Seated in a camp chair at his tent, James Longstreet (Jay Vogel) smoked a trademark cigar. Brig. Gen. Maxcy Gregg (ID unknown) sat relaxing outside his tent, and Col. John Gordon Brown (one of my favorite Confederate officers) and Gen. Jubal Early talked about Early’s excitable horse. Ron Cole plays Brown; Mike Mehaffey portrays Early.
On this Friday, some 2,000 schoolchildren visited the Antietam 150th re-enactment. Arriving in three waves of yellow school buses, the children listened to lectures, toured Sutler Village, and watched the artillery and infantry demonstration on what would become Saturday’s battlefield. Many children also flocked to the officers’ camp to meet Confederate and Union leaders.
Despite the heat, Gen. Lewis Armistead (Dennis Cole) graciously donned his full uniform to pose for photos. A notepad in her hand, a middle-schooler waited patiently to interview Armistead/Cole; not missing a beat after his brief photo shoot, he engaged the young student in full Civil War conversation.
We did not see “Stonewall” Jackson or George Pickett (I wanted to ask him about that shad fry), but Gen. Isaac Trimble (David Trimble) walked past us, and on Saturday we saw Jefferson Davis talking with a few civilians in period dress.
Like the Federal Generals Corps, Lee’s Lieutenants stresses historical accuracy in dress and in the character portrayed. We seldom see Confederate gold braid at Maine re-enactments; for that matter, we seldom see Union generals in Maine, too.
Some members of Lee’s Lieutenants — women and children included — portray specific or generic civilians, from LaSallie Corbett Pickett (George’s heart throb) to Anna Jackson to Mathew Brady and refugees. The group’s presence at the Antietam 150th made the weekend all the more fun.