Reenactors bring Civil War history to life at Rowan Museum

Published 12:10 am Monday, July 20, 2015

Phyllis Mahmud was driving down Main Street after church when she spotted an unusual site – Union and Confederate soldiers were camped on the lawn of the Rowan Museum.

“I was just riding by,” she said, but added as a member of a family with deep roots in this country’s military, she felt compelled to stop.

Members of the 28th Regiment North Carolina Infantry Reactivated greeted Mahmud and other visitors and showed them around museum grounds, where they had pitched different style tents like those Civil War soldiers would have slept in.

The living history event was the culmination of the museum’s Civil War Days, a weeklong camp for students focusing on the Civil War in Rowan County, followed by the two-day weekend living history event.

“I think it is a great opportunity,” Mahmud said, adding that she enjoyed seeing the way the soldiers lived.

“You want the history to be portrayed in the best manner,” she said.

One of the soldiers had his military pack on display. He explained what each item in the bag was and how he used it.

“He let me hold it a minute,” she said, adding that it was extremely heavy.

“You had to carry those things a lot of miles,” she said.

The experience, she said, made her appreciate the sacrifice of those who serve in the military even more.

Other reenactors talked about their clothing, accessories, and what they did for relaxation.

One teen talked about how bayonets were used much more for cooking and other utilitarian uses than on the battle field. Another one talked about the canteens soldiers carried.

Christina Mankin, a teenaged girl, explained her costume in detail to visitors who came through the museum. She was wearing one hoop skirt, two petticoats and a corset. Another woman showed the types of games and toys children during that time would have played with.

The magnitude of the conflict alone makes the Civil War a “significant part of America’s history,” said Stephen Harris, a member of the 28th Regiment North Carolina Infantry Reactivated.

“Many of us had ancestors who fought in the War Between the States,” he said, adding that that’s what makes it so personal.

The 28th Regiment North Carolina Infantry Reactivated honors all soldiers, Harris said.

The group reenacts both as Confederate and Union troops.

“We’re trying to represent both sides of history,” he said. “It just depends on the weekend.”

Fellow infantry member David James said it comes as a shock to many that there were southerners in the Union Army.

“Western North Carolina was hardcore Unionist,” he said, adding that there were at least four North Carolina regiments in the Union Army.

Living history events are important, Harris said.

They give “the public a view of what it was like,” he said.