09/26/04 — Civil War re-enactor speaks at CBA

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Civil War re-enactor speaks at CBA

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 26, 2004 2:05 AM

Don Collins has been with the Goldsboro Fire Department for 17 years. He has also had an increasing interest in the Civil War era since seeing the movie "Gettysburg."

He learned that there are groups that travel and perform re-enactments of battles. He mentioned it to his wife, but had no expectations that she would approve.

"She said, 'Go for it,'" he said.

He has been in the 60-member unit Reilly's Battery for five years. His group is one of the only re-enacting units in the country that have a medical staff, a horse-drawn artillery, infantry, cavalry, music staff and commissary.

Collins' unit also appeared in the movie "Gods and Generals."

Last year, he was asked by a friend to do a presentation at a school about the Civil War. That prompted Anne Kosuda, U.S. History teacher at Charles B. Aycock High School, to invite him to speak to several classes last week.

Collins has been a re-enactor for both the Union and Confederate sides, so could describe the life of soldiers during that time.

He wore the all-wool Confederate uniform and demonstrated different things soldiers would have. He shared pictures taken from his travels, as well as books depicting the Civil War time.

He showed different flags from that period and discussed weapons used, foods eaten and how provisions were transported.

Collins also demonstrated how a bedroll was carried on a soldier's back for sleeping. He even pitched a tent outside the mobile classroom. He said that as many as nine men could be sleeping together inside the tent.

"They'd spoon, back to back," he said. "When one guy got ready to turn over, everybody turned over."

He also described how meat and foods were preserved and carried on the journeys. He had even prepared his own "hardtack" -- three-inch crackers made of flour, lard and salt -- for the students to sample.

At one point, he asked the students to observe the shoes he was wearing. He noted they were made of two pieces of leather fashioned together, but he was searching for what else was unique about them.

"They're exactly the same," he said. "No left and right. It worked well if you got up in the middle of the night and had to put your shoes on in hurry."