As a Historical Interpreter at an historic site in North Carolina, and as a Civil War Reenactor, educating others on history is both my job, and my hobby. What I do helps people understand the people and the places of the past, in some cases better than any book or documentary could do, because I help to bring that history alive for those interested. Nothing excites me more than to see those light bulbs go off in people’s heads, as they learn something they didn’t know before.
But I feel that it is more important for younger generations to learn their history as well. Today, I journeyed down to Gastonia, NC for a school program with some of my fellow reenacting partners from the 49th NC Troops/21st Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Now, Gastonia is a right fur piece (i.e. a fairly long trip) from where I live, about a hundred miles. Getting there and back proved to be quite a problem. On the way there, I got stuck in morning commuter traffic while going through Charlotte, and on my way back, I got lost in downtown Charlotte for about an hour.
But while the getting there and coming back proved to be downright stressful, the two hours at the school proved to be more than worthwhile, both for me, and the children I talked to. As the lone Yankee there, I chose to talk about camp life of the soldiers. Now, as an interpreter, I am told to keep my talks as brief as possible. So, I spent about a third of my time with each group talking about the camp routines of the armies (music, games, reading, smoking, etc.). The rest of the time I left open to questions. And with all three groups I spoke to, I got dozens of questions ranging from everything from Civil War history, to whether or not what we do is similar to what’s featured in games like “Call of Duty.” But I could tell that the kids were interested in what we presented, and in the answers we gave. To me, that is what makes all the stress of long hours of work, or long periods of travel, worth going through. With us there in our uniforms, brandishing weaponry and equipment as the soldiers of that time carried, and sharing our knowledge of that history with them, you could see that they didn’t see the history as boring or in the past. To them, we brought history alive, and made it interesting and relatable to them.
To me, that is what excites me the most about To Appomattox. Just as we, through donning the uniforms and equipment of the common soldier, strive to create an authentic representation of Billy Yank and Johnny Reb, this miniseries has a chance to authentically recreate the people, places and events of the American Civil War. And through doing this, it will help to educate and enlighten, in addition to entertaining viewers. When the series airs on the small screen in 2013, there is no doubt in my mind that we shall be viewing the most historically authentic film ever produced on this period of American history, and shed new light on those people and battles they represent.