Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Reenactment: Battle of Bentonville on Original Battlefield

Thousands Restage 1865 Civil War Fight,Sadia Latifi, Charlotte Observer, March 21, 2010.

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman brought about 60,000 Union men and boys to Bentonville in March 1865, ready to crush Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's Confederate army.

This weekend, only about 1,100 of Sherman's troops - compared to about 2,500 Confederate soldiers - showed up at Bentonville Battleground to re-create the fight, the largest and last major Civil War battle in North Carolina.

Every five years, thousands flock to the site to remember and re-enact. They take great care to uphold historical accuracy. When they can. "Nobody wants to be a Union soldier," said Raleigh resident Wes Jones, 58, of North Carolina's 6th Cavalry Regiment, Company I. "Playing a Confederate is more fun. Even though we lose, you get to play the underdog."

The Union soldier shortage is a recurrent problem for Southern Civil War re-enactments. To participate at Bentonville, interested Yankees must often take vacation days and travel long distances to an area about 50 miles southeast of Raleigh. "You have to take off almost five days to come here," said Peter DellaVedova, 56, of the 104th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, based in Chicago. "We lost six of our guys on the way down here because a car broke down."

That part is historically accurate - sort of. Many members of the original Illinois unit died while traveling to North Carolina for the battle, DellaVedova said. To deal with the Union shortfall, organizers allow any Federal units to join the battle up to the day of the event. Confederate units must be invited. Sometimes a Confederate soldier, such as Jones, will don a navy blue jacket the first day to level out the numbers. And sometimes, dead Union soldiers come back to life to shore up the North's numbers. Not the boys from Chicago, though. "Our unit says that once you've been hit, you stay on the ground," DellaVedova said.

More than 3,500 war buffs have camped out in tents for days in Bentonville to re-enact the battle on its 145th anniversary. The original battle lasted three days - from March 19 to March 21, 1865 - and spread over 6,000 acres. Confederate dead or wounded . totaled 2,606. The much-larger Union army had 1,646 dead or wounded.

Text Source: Charlotte Observer, March 21, 2010
Image Source: Civil War Librarian

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