Chickamauga: Re-enactors react to Newsweek story

Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008

Civil War re-enactor John Culpepper said he has always heard about the “nut” from Kennesaw who collects Ku Klux Klan memorabilia, and he doesn’t appreciate being lumped together with such a person.

The cover story in the Aug. 11 issue of Newsweek, “Southern Discomfort,” details writer Christopher Dickey’s odyssey through the South as he tried to gauge impressions of presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain.

For a portion of the interview Mr. Dickey talked with a young Civil War re-enactor he ran into on Lookout Mountain. He also talked to the Kennesaw man Mr. Culpepper referred to, whose name is Dent Myers.

In a photo spread, the re-enactor, 12, is just below a picture, which features a mannequin in a white, pointy, Ku Klux Klan hood, from Mr. Dent’s store.

Mr. Culpepper said his friend sent him the article.

“He was boiling mad,” Mr. Culpepper said of his friend, a fellow re-enactor. “Because it puts us in with racists.”

The history buff, also Chickamauga city manager, and others said the Newsweek article perpetuates stereotypes of re-enactors, and of Southerners, that are inaccurate.

“As far as me and the average Southerner, we are not racist,” Mr. Culpepper said. “We are living historians. We portray Union and we portray Confederate. We are doing it for our ancestors to honor both sides of the war.”

Ann Shackleford and her husband, Bill, have been re-enacting Civil War battles for 18 years. They operate the Mountain City Mercantile, a Civil War-era general store in Chickamauga.

Re-enacting is not about trying to rewrite history, Ms. Shackleford said, it is about recreating history and honoring ancestors.

Mr. Shackleford said many members of the Sons of Confederate veterans also are members of the Sons of Union Veterans, having ancestors who fought on both sides.

Although some re-enactors said they are sometimes misunderstood, Mr. Shackleford said he never has been ridiculed for his hobby.

“I catch more flak for dressing as a Yankee,” he said.

Copyright ©2008, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc

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