03/20/05 — Thousands take part in battle re-creation

View Archive

Thousands take part in battle re-creation

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 20, 2005 10:30 AM

FOUR OAKS -- Thousands of Civil War re-enactors and thousands more spectators filled the fields at the Bentonville Battleground on Saturday to mark the 140th anniversary of the battle.

Donnie Taylor, the military coordinator for the event, said he estimated that 15,000 people watched as men dressed in blue and gray sparred over the ground where Confederate forces made a final attempt to stop William T. Sherman's Union Army from reaching the railroad center at Goldsboro in March, 1865. About 3,000 re-enactors were expected to participate.

Planners worked for a year and half to get ready for the influx of re-enactors, Taylor said. He said he was pleased with the way Saturday's events unfolded. Rain threatened but held off.

The re-enactment was to continue today, starting with church services at 8:30 and including another battle re-enactment at 1:30 p.m.

People came from across the country to take part in the event. Most re-enactors stayed in character throughout the day.

John Moorehead and Mark Friedly of Maryland portray soldiers of the 2nd U.S. Infantry . While munching on "hardtack" biscuits, they said the Bentonville event was one of the better ones they had attended. They called it well organized and noted that re-enactors rarely get a chance to replay history on the actual site where a battle took place.

"The national parks don't let us do this," said Friedly, who lives in Annapolis. Both men have been Civil War re-enactors for about 11 years.

Moorehead, who lives in Baltimore, said re-enactors go through all the trouble to re-create the uniforms, weapons and battle scenes because they love history.

Moorehead said had one Union ancestor, and so far, he has found seven Confederate ancestors.

Friedly'ssaid his ancestor was a member of a Confederate ranger outfit that was considered an outlaw group by Union troops.

The Battle of Bentonville, fought March 19 through 21 in 1865, was the largest battle fought on North Carolina soil. It was the last major battle of the Civil War. During the fighting, the Confederate army under the command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston desperately sought to turn back the Union forces under the command of Gen. William T. Sherman. But the Southerners were outnumbered nearly three to one. They were unable to gain an advantage over federal forces and were compelled to withdraw from the battlefield.

Sherman took Goldsboro and its crucial railroad connections a few days later.

The Civil War re-enactors at Bentonville this weekend performed artillery and infantry demonstrations, delivered lectures on civilian life and gave demonstrations on 19th-century medical techniques the Harper House. The house was used by surgeons of the 14th Union Army Corps during the battle. During three days of fighting, 554 wounded, including 45 Confederates, were treated there.

Nick Horowitz , 14, serves as a drummer for the 19th Tennessee Regiment. He lives in Johnson City, Tenn., and got involved in re-enactments through his parents. At the camp, his parents were preparing dinner over an open fire in front of one of many tents set up for living history displays.

"Tents like these would not be set up in the bigger battles like this one," said Horowitz. "They'd just sleep on the ground. They would cook only if they had time."

His friend, 12-year old Clay Rhoten, from Kingsport, Tenn., wants to be a drummer boy as well. He and his father, Bill Rhoten, love to research history together.

"Dad is back at another camp site now," said Rhoten, while he and Horowitz chopped onions and green peppers for a stew. "I enjoy doing this a lot. I like spending time with my father. We're one of the best groups out here. We look the best on the field."

Ann Marie Grunn was making bobbin lace in front of the Harper House. Her husband, Douglas, serves as a bugler for the 33rd New Jersey Regiment.

Mrs. Grunn made lace the English way. It's a weaving technique, a dying art.

"I understand in Europe they do this on the street corners," she said. "I heard that they would force younger children to make the easier patterns of the lace. They would strap them to the chairs. What child would want to do this for hours? In England during the colonial times, you'd know one's rank by the amount of lace they'd wear."

Across the way, Harry Daniel from Ruckersville, Va., was checking his Springfield rifle to make sure the muzzle was clear. He and his family were at the camp with the 34th Virginia Infantry, which started out as heavy artillery unit. It protected the rivers until the rivers were taken by the Union soldiers in March 1864.

Daniel said he has been a re-enactor 19 years. He said he does it for the love of history.

"It's a learning experience," he said. "I learn something every time I put on the uniform."