Reenactors take Rosedale guests back in time

During the Civil War, the plantation housed hundreds of sick and wounded soldiers.

By Kathy Haight

khaight@charlotteobserver.com

Posted: Sunday, Apr. 12, 2009

On a wooden table covered with a sheet, a Civil War soldier lay bleeding Saturday from a bullet wound in his chest.

His surgeon in the medic’s tent at Historic Rosedale Plantation was having a tough time finding the painful piece of lead.

“If the bullet hit a bone, it shattered into a million pieces,” said Rex Hovey of Mint Hill. He portrayed the surgeon, and a mannequin played the soldier at Saturday’s Civil War hospital reenactment at Rosedale in north Charlotte.

Visitors to the plantation were transported to April 1865 by more than a dozen history buffs in period clothes. Once you tuned out the traffic noise on busy Tryon Street, it wasn’t hard to imagine what life was like in a 19th century field hospital.

During the Civil War, Charlotte had a military hospital near the site of what is now the Dowd YMCA on Morehead Street, said Rosedale board member Jim Williams.

But with more than 1,000 wounded soldiers in town when the war ended, about 11 field hospitals were set up in warehouses, back rooms of stores, private homes and tents.

The Rosedale Plantation was not a hospital site. But newspapers at the time described a tent city of about 500 sick or wounded men on the grounds of a military school on what is now Morehead Street, Williams said. Saturday’s reenactment had the feel of that tent city on a smaller scale.

Reenactors dressed as Union and Confederate soldiers gathered near canvas tents pitched on the front lawn of the white-columned plantation house. Women wearing bonnets and long skirts rolled bandages near the medic’s tent where the surgeon worked to save his mannequin’s life.

All reenactors were in character, which meant the surgeon asked visitors in jeans and T-shirts if they’d brought food or chloroform for the soldiers, since supplies were running low. The women in bonnets asked if visitors had any bed linens to spare for making bandages.

“Excuse me, ma’am. Do you know who I am?” asked 12-year-old Issac Christenbury of Lincoln County. He was dressed as a drummer boy who lost his memory after being hit in the head with a musket.

“History is not just about memorizing dates and places,” said Historic Rosedale director Deborah Hunter. “It’s the essence of the times then. What might it have really been like?”

All it took to find the answer Saturday was a short walk from Rosedale’s parking lot and into the Charlotte of 1865.

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