Re-enactors Say Living History Teaches Heritage Not Hate

Friday, June 18, 2004

HERNANDO — When Paul Alford of Horn Lake dons his Confederate uniform and draws his Civil war replica sword from his scabbard, he spies the enemy.

In his mind’s eye, the enemy is fast approaching. In his great-great grandfather’s day, the enemy was the Union Army.

In 2004, the enemy is far more subtle and complex and hard to detect.

The most common enemy that Alford and others in the living history movement battle to counteract on an almost daily basis is ignorance.

Alford said that many Americans aren’t aware of what happened in the War Between the States, one of the costliest conflicts in American history. Even more discouraging, said Alford, is that some people are cynical, even suspicious of what reenactors are all about.

“I feel that everybody should know their heritage,” said Alford who brought his wife Sheila and two daughters, Dixie, 11, and Syrenna, 8, along to the 10th Annual Conference on the Great Revival in the Southern Armies at the DeSoto Civic Center.

The conference is one of several pre-battle events leading up to Saturday and Sunday’s reenactment of the Battle of Hernando off Robertson Gin Road in a field adjacent to the Robertson-Yates home in Hernando. The battle is staged at 2 p.m. each day. A Victorian ball for soldiers both North and South will be held on the lawn of the DeSoto County Courthouse Saturday at 7 p.m.

Alford’s ancestors fought at Gettysburg under Brigadier General William Barksdale and charged the infamous wheat field where thousands of young men from Union and Confederate armies were slaughtered.

“My family believed in tradition,” said Alford, who portrays a lieutenant colonel under General James R. Chalmers, commander of the Confederate forces.

His wife Sheila had eight ancestors who fought in Company G of the very regiment that Alford commands, the 17th Mississippi Infantry.

“I enjoy being able to relive the way our ancestors did,” Sheila Alford said. “It (reenacting) makes you appreciate what our ancestors went through.”

Lynn Herron, 69, considers himself a patriot. He served in the U.S. Army and the Air Force Reserve under the Stars and Stripes. Herron, who is commander of the Capt. Edward Ward Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said he’s puzzled when some people object to events like the Great Revival in the Southern Armies, a three-day conference which explored the affect of Christianity on the war and the troops.

“It seems like to me the ACLU is trying to knock down everything that pertains to the South,” Herron said. “This country was founded in the belief of freedom of religion. Preaching to the troops was very important back then. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee would pray before they went into battle.”

Alford said that simply put, reenactments are fun, plain old-fashioned family entertainment. More than 139 years after the actual battle, there are no bitter feelings. In fact, organizers of the reenactment say there will be Southerners playing Yankees and Northerners portraying Rebels.

“It’s a lot of fun to look back on your heritage and learn what it was all about.”