Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Battle At Beauvoir

Today marked Fall Muster @ Beauvoir. (Historic estate of Jefferson Davis. (President of The Confederacy.))All able-bodied Rebel soldiers were requested to report to the battlefiend for a re-enactment just after lunch. Meg, Liam (who is feeling much better, thank-you-very-much) and I went while Cindy attended a wedding luncheon of a friend.

A beautiful day for all parties involved. High sixties. Plenty of sunlight. Slight breeze. A dapple of clouds suggesting brief moments of shade. Perfect conditions for a clash between pudgy Civil War buffs hoisting muzzle-loaders and smoke-belching artillery.

Living in the deepest part of The Deep South, historical facts run far thinner than our hot blooded residents. Lots of philosophic leanings about Northern aggression. Much self-supported amnesia regarding the two centuries of slavery and decades of segregation. However, my kids don't need those shadows weighing them down. So we played our assigned roles and supported the Rebels today's.

It started slowly. Several different Confederate units marching in crisp formation around the neatly trimmed grounds of Beauvoir. Two hundred strong. The South's finest in full uniform. Single action pistols. .58 caliber long arms. Sun-bleached flags catching a Gulf breeze. The tap-tap-tap of rough, hand-made drums.

And from a dark copse of pines, the North arrives. Three freaky-large cannons and a miserable collection of twenty troops. (I kept wondering if these were actual volunteers, real imports of northern actors, or unlucky locals who drew the wrong ticket from a hat? What self-respecting gentleman from South Mississippi is going to put on an enemy uniform and take up pretend arms against his brothers?) A disappointingly small force intent on laying waste to our boys.

Then the fight began in earnest. We sent a scout force to size them up. They fired upon the scouts. The scouts withdrew without any losses. Our units formed skirmish lines. Their cannons came to life. Our lines opened fire. Their units (what few they had) advanced. Our cannons spoke thunder. The lines of men fired upon each other. All the while, the drummers kept time and crouching nurses rushed amid the false fallen. Round after round. Roar after roar. Our boys took losses. Their boys took more. And (amazingly) at the end of the hour, The South won.

The sounds of the cannons were literally deafening. We could feel shock waves rolling over us. And eventually the field was obscured by a thick grey fog.

What was missing was the soldier's real fear for their lives. The high-pitched screams of men being ripped apart by rounds the size of my thumb. And the slick sprays of deep red blood on freshly manicured fields. Glorifying the South is one thing. Taking the edge off of the absolute horror and obscenity that is war is another. But, the kids didn't need to know that. So I played my assigned role as a Good Southern Father and cheered when "our side" won. Let them stay sweet a little longer.

But what struck me the most was the smallest player in the game. (See the last picture.) A lone child.  A boy of maybe ten years. Liam's age. No guns. No real role in the victory. Just standing there, behing the line, holding a flag. Did we really allow that to happen? Not now, but then. During the Real War. Did we send our sons onto fields of death just to hold up our banners? What father could do that? What mother would allow it? I hope it was just a colorful bit of flare for the re-enactment. I pray there is no basis in reality it.

Afterwards, Meg came home with a parisol. And a bird whistle. Liam has a Rebel cap. And a fresnel lens to burn things.

And we'll always remember that on this day, our side won.
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