By LEON ALLIGOOD
SPRING HILL — War is hell. Just ask Mike Moore.
The Memphis-based salesman for an air-conditioning products firm is the go-to man this weekend at the observance of the 140th anniversary of the Civil War battles of Franklin, Columbia and Spring Hill.
He’s the general, commander of the Confederate troops who will face off with the Yankees, just as they did 140 years ago, but with blanks in the rifles and cannons this time.
Yesterday morning, however, Moore was solving crises of a different kind: getting water for horses, directing new arrivals to campsites and keeping cars out of an alfalfa field some drivers were using as a shortcut.
”It’ll all be worth it tomorrow when the fighting commences,” said Moore, who sports a salt-and pepper goatee and moustache. His eyes droop a little because of lack of sleep in the past 72 hours.
”Who’s got time to sleep? We’ve got so much to do. This particular event has been three years in the making. Our aim is to see these men get a good fight.”
About 8,000 re-enactors — men and a few women who dress, camp and act like 19th-century soldiers from the North and the South — are expected to attend. Organizers said re-enactors will represent every state except Hawaii.
The events begin today and continue through Sunday on hundreds of acres across the street from the Saturn assembly plant and next to Rippavilla Plantation.
Approximately 100,000 spectators are expected to watch the Civil War erupt all over again.
Chuck Cortesio of Centerville, Iowa, said the spectators will not be having nearly as much fun as the re-enactors.
”I’m doing it because I love history,” said Cortesio, a round-faced man with a gray-streaked beard that stretches below his Adam’s apple.
”I went to 10 states last year but not as many this year because of the gas prices. I didn’t want to miss this battle. I’ve always been a rebel at heart and now I get to play one,” he said.
What’s not to like about re-enacting? asked Jeffrey Edel of St. Augustine, Fla.
”You get to camp out with guys, not wash for three days and play with all kinds of firearms. It’s an opportunity to experience history rather than read about it,” he said.
Another re-enactor, Chuck Padrick, of Kissimmee, Fla., said he lives for the ”blue moments.”
”It’s when you catch a certain view, when you see all those federal troops, and you think how could they have lived through this? It takes you back in time, like you’re really there,” he said.
Of course, the South will lose the Battle of Franklin once again. History will not be rewritten, Moore said. ”It was the South’s last hurrah. What happened here devastated the Confederacy. We knew then it was over and done with,” he said of the battle, which is being remembered two months before the event’s actual dates of Nov. 29-30.
For re-enactors such as Chris Mekow, a National Park Service ranger at Fort Sumter, S.C., participating in this weekend’s battles is a privilege. ”My ancestors fought here, so it’s good to be here,” he said, sitting by the smoldering ashes of his breakfast fire.
”It’s like coming home, in a manner of speaking.”
Two upcoming conferences will focus on the Battle of Nashville’s 140th anniversary.
• The first, Oct. 29-31, is sponsored by the Travellers Rest Plantation and Museum. It will feature seven panelists at Travellers Rest and offer a daylong battlefield tour. For more information, either call 832-8197 or visit www.travellersrestplantation.org.
• The second symposium, Dec. 10-11, is sponsored by the Tennessee Historical Society, the Nashville Public Library, the Metro Nashville Historical Commission and the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area. It will offer 19 programs at the downtown library, including some new examinations of the war. For more information, either call 741-8934 or visit www.tennesseehistory.org.
The real Battle of Franklin took place Nov. 30, 1864, between a 31,000-strong Confederate force under Gen. John Bell Hood and the federal Army contingent of 26,000 soldiers led by Gen. John M. Schofield.
On the afternoon of Nov. 30, more than 20,000 Confederate soldiers were lined up along a two-mile front to begin an assault upon 17,000 Union soldiers who were entrenched on the south edge of town.
There were 2,326 casualties on the Union side, while the Confederates suffered 6,252.
Two weeks later, on Dec. 15-16, the Battle of Nashville followed, with 2,140 federal casualties and 15,000 Confederates killed, wounded and missing.
• Adult one-day admission to the re-enactment is $15; two-day tickets are $17; and three-day tickets are $19. Students from age 12 through college pay $5 for one day, $7 for two and $9 for three days. The gates will open daily at 9 a.m. Opening ceremonies are at noon today.
• Battle re-enactments will be held at 4:30 p.m. today. This is being called The Road from Atlanta. Tomorrow the Battle of Franklin re-enactment will begin at 4 p.m., with a night battle at 6:30. The Battle of Nashville re-enactment will be 2 p.m. Sunday.
• There will be a Battle of Spring Hill (Nov. 29, 1864), but it will be for re-enactors only.
• The producer of the event is the North-South Alliance, whose purpose is to hold large re-enactments to raise funds for Civil War battlefield preservation. The beneficiary of this weekend’s event is Save the Franklin Battlefield Inc.
© Copyright 2004 The Tennessean