Civil War re-enactors celebrate heritage BY MELANIE BENNETT Staff Writer Posted on Mon, Nov. 01, 2004

The Randles family cares about the future, so they frequently relive the past.

Kimberly Randles said she and her husband, Daniel, participate in Civil War re-enactments so their children can learn more about the past.

"There’s just so much history to learn," said Kimberly Randles, who made the clothes here children wore last weekend during a Civil War encampment at Port Columbus National Civil War Naval Museum.

The Randles family was among about 40 people who participated in the second annual event, which included drill competitions, weapons demonstrations, artillery firing and an encampment that helped visitors learn more about life during the Civil War.

"We learn from our history," Kimberly Randles said. "The children learn to appreciate who they are and where they’re from."

Six-year-old Jeanette Randles, whose face and arms were littered with mosquito bites from her weekend adventure, said she enjoys the re-enactments. The family participates in one or two each month.

"I like it because you get to go to settlers and watch the cannons," said Jeanette. She and her friend, 4-year-old Emily Cranford of Panama City, Fla., were dressed in Civil War-era clothing, but they didn’t mind indulging in some modern-day Halloween candy as their parents packed up the tents to leave.

Kimberly Randles said many of the re-enactors use only authentic equipment and food from the era during the events. Other folks, including the Randles, don’t mind bringing in "farbies" — modern-day conveniences like bottled water or cots.

Matt Young, the museum’s programs director, said re-enactors get involved in such activities for a variety of reasons.

For Todd Turnbull, a cook from Dawsonville, Ga., it’s the love of history.

"And I enjoy the company and camaraderie," said Turnbull, whose wife doesn’t participate in the one or two re-enactments he attends each month.

William Henry Vinson of Cuthbert, Ga., got seriously involved in Civil War re-enactments more than a year ago because of something his grandson said.

He and his 13-year-old grandson, Bo Vinson IV, took an 18-day trip that included a visit to the national battlefield in Shiloh, Va. Vinson showed his grandson the neat, orderly markers for the graves of Union soldiers.

"Then he said, ‘Papa, where’s our boys?’ " Vinson said. He took his grandson to the single monument that marked a mass grave for the Confederate soldiers who died on the battlefield.

"He said, ‘Papa, that ain’t right.’ I said, ‘But we lost, son,’ " Vinson said. "He said, ‘Yeah, but Papa, they was soldiers, too.’ "

Vinson chokes up at the memory. He now makes presentations to civil clubs in character as his ancestor, William Henry Vinson, who died in 1862. Vinson has participated in 14 re-enactments this year.

Like the Randles, Vinson said his love of history isn’t the only reason he gets so involved in the re-enactments. He does it to try to right the wrongs he sees in history books and politics.

"We’re paying today for the federal control that we tried to fight 100 years ago," Vinson said as he packed up his equipment to go back home. "It had nothing to do with race. They did what they believed was right. And they were soldiers."

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