Reflections on Appomattox 150th

To conclude this birthday extravaganza:

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I’m glad I went to both sites: the Court House and the Industrial Park. The Court House was much more somber and reflective, while the Industrial Park complex felt very much like a state fair. One of my favorite parts was talking to all the different people – both reenactors and guests, although maybe not that guy with the How Reagan Destroyed Social Security rant. I always find it interesting to see how others appreciate and partake in history, and the different ways they make it alive and relevant for them. A lot of people – for very valid reasons – dislike the shoot-’em-up nature of reenactments. For others, its how they get interested initially. I fall somewhere in between, being drawn in by the people first, although I won’t say no to a good artillery barrage.

One of my other favorite parts of these things are the opportunities for photographs. I’ve included some of my favorite shots from this weekend, from the four hundred billion I took. Nota bene: there was a reenactment surrender at the Court House which I completely forgot to include in my initial write up. It was a lot more somber than the one at the Industrial Park complex and also lacked the buttwad volunteer. One fellow caught my eye because he had a cheery floral shirt under his coat but his expression was so solemn I nicknamed him the Dour Confederate. It was also interesting to see ranks of them stack arms in short order. This ceremony lacked the long song, which was probably a good thing.

I completely forgot which camera I took. I have a friend with a Canon and a friend with a Nikon that I usually borrow, so these are from one of them. One of them is from my trusty cell phone, I just can’t remember which one.

The biggest danger at these events is to grossly over-romanticize the conflict, the era, the people. Or rather, that will happen at events like this, but the trick is to then regain some sensibility afterwards, which is where the discussion and learning begins. There is also a difference between the romanticization and being a huge and complete nerd about it. Most of the people involved in putting these events together – reenactors, living historians, organizers –¬†straddle that line with ease.

I should include something about everything I’ve learned, from the technicalities of a cavalry surrender to Custer’s role at Appomattox, but that would be boring bullet points with no synthesizing. Instead, I’ll go and get a whole bunch of books that expand on everything, both in breadth and depth, and then maybe I’ll be able to talk sensically about all of this.

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To conclude this conclusion: pretty much best birthday weekend ever. One of my favorite things ever is using my brain, and there was plenty of that. There were lots of new people and lots of new experiences and while I wish it could go on forever, I’m glad it didn’t. I’m also sad Al Stone is retiring as Lee, but I’m glad I got to see him for a couple of years, as well as tell him he’s the best iteration of Lee I’ve probably ever seen, in life or in cinema.

In the meantime, there are loads more people to talk to and places to visit. I can’t wait to see where I end up next.



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