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They fight for the South but not for the reasons you think

Bruce Pate of Grand Bay, Ala., depicting the role of a captain in the Confederate States Marine Corps, awaits the start of the Civil War re-enactment at the 30th annual Fall Muster at Beauvoir on Saturday, October 15, 2016.
Bruce Pate of Grand Bay, Ala., depicting the role of a captain in the Confederate States Marine Corps, awaits the start of the Civil War re-enactment at the 30th annual Fall Muster at Beauvoir on Saturday, October 15, 2016. amccoy@sunherald.com

Most of those who participated in Beauvoir’s Fall Muster Civil War reenactment Saturday were on the Confederate side, but their motivations for doing so have little to do with politics.

Reenactors come in all shapes and sizes — male and female, young and old. In their daily lives, they may work as plumbers or doctors and may vote conservative or liberal or maybe not at all.

The one thing most of them have in common is their passion for history. Most reenactors are very-well read and have a strong desire to educate themselves and others while preserving history.

Beau Ladner, 42, of Hancock County, participated in Saturday’s event dressed as a Confederate soldier.

Ladner works as a route driver and sales clerk and started reenacting about 15 years ago after his then-wife introduced him to the pastime. He was impressed with the historical accuracy of the events and decided to stick with the hobby, he said.

“Through the hobby of reenacting, we get to actually show people what the soldiers did on the battlefield and what they did when they were back at the camps,” he said.

Reenactors strive to make the events as accurate as possible, wearing historically accurate uniforms, carrying exact replicas of the weapons or in some cases weapons actually used in the war, and demonstrating the actual battlefield tactics used at that time.

One reenactor on the Union side was even playing a fife as he marched with his unit onto the recreated battlefield. Similar to a flute or piccolo, the fife was used in the Civil War as a signaling device and to provide field music to help the soldiers march in unison.

Like Ladner, Oran Thomas, 48, of Gautier, participates in reenactments because he has a great interest in history, specifically Civil War history. He has been reenacting for about 16 years and participates as both a Confederate and a Union soldier depending on the needs of a particular event.

There’s a misconception that the Confederate reenactors are modern-day rebels with a political agenda, though there may be some who participate for political reasons.

Those people are “just ridiculous,” Thomas said.

He said a true historian reenactor should be able to play both sides.

However, some prefer to take on an “impression” of an actual soldier from the war, dressing as a historical figure such as Gen. Robert E. Lee or a lesser-known figure whom the reenactor has personally researched.

Others may not be able to play both sides simply because they don’t have the resources to buy both blue and gray uniforms and equipment.

Devyn Provins, an Ocean Springs High School student, is new to the hobby and like most others, enjoys the history. The 15-year-old became interested in reenactments after learning he had ancestors who fought on both sides of the war. Devyn is working to research their lives.

“It’s kind of like stepping in a portal back in time,” he said. “You see all the uniforms, the music, the tents — everything just transports you back in time.”

Though many reenactors are men, quite a few women participate, usually acting as civilians. Reatha Pittman, 36, of Long Beach, is one of them.

Pittman, a recruiter for the U.S. Navy, took up the hobby four years ago after some friends introduced her to it.

“I love history,” she said. “I love the history of the Civil War and enjoy being around like-minded people who also love it.”

This weekend marked the 30th Fall Muster at Beauvoir. It runs through 5 p.m. Sunday.

Wesley Muller: 228-896-2322, @WesleySMuller

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