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Charging Into the Past

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WSJ

BARTON SWAIM

 

I have a friend who fights Civil War battles. He is the sort of man you might refer to, with just a hint of disparagement, as a "Civil War buff": He participates in battle re-enactments, tells stories about battles as if he had fought in them, and knows everything there is to know about Springfield rifles and the Union Navy's chain of command.

 

In short, he's a strange guy. And yet there is something about him I envy. Most people wish they could live in some other era, at least for a time. My friend does it. The sheer weight of his knowledge allows him to cross the chasm that separates us from the 1860s. Or that's how you feel when you speak to him.

 

RV-AG932_WARRIO_DV_20120525164035.jpg

A would-be Confederate soldier.

 

"Man of War," an offbeat, occasionally insightful and funny memoir, is the result of a year or so spent donning strange uniforms, handling old weapons and bivouacking with fellow "soldiers." As it happens, Mr. Schroeder participates in just one Civil War re-enactment. Rather than choosing a famous battle like Bull Run in Virginia or Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, he heads for Brooksville, Fla., where a skirmish between Union marauders and Southern irregulars in 1864 is transformed into a colossal clash of armies. It is there that Mr. Schroeder begins to sense that re-enacting isn't always about dry historical accuracy.

 

(Snip)

 

 

 

Man of War: My Adventures in the World of Historical Reenactment

 

 

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