When women say they love a man in uniform, do they mean a thick, wool reproduction of a Confederate Army uniform, complete with gold braid and flattened-pancake hat? After chatting up a few soldiers at Saturday's Civil War reenactment at Letchworth State Park, my vote is a wholehearted "yes!"
Enthusiasts crowded the yellow tape that separated them from the battlefield (aka Letchworth's Highbanks Recreation Area) and Confederate General Isaac R. Trimble (aka Lee Hauser of Clifton Springs) electrified the people with tales of historical derring-do. In the field, soldiers were hunkered down behind wooden barriers, assembling the cavalry, prepping the heavy artillery.
As a New Yorker, you knew you ought to be rooting for the Union, but listening to General Trimble, you kinda hoped the Confederacy would at least put in a good showing. Two p.m. (regularly scheduled battle time) drew near, and everyone was breathless.
Suddenly (as planned), a shot rang out. Ladies in hoop skirts stopped picnicking. Barefoot children in calico stopped romping. The Civil War rumble was on!
A word to the wise: In the presence of cannon fire, cowardly dogs will beat a hasty retreat. Pull the troops back (to the car), drive around until the battle is over, and reconnoiter in the reenactors' camps to make friends with women cooking beans in cast-iron pots. Look for General Trimble. He'll answer all your Civil War questions.
Years of service?
Twenty-five. I started as a private out in the field, but I've been the General for 10 years.
Cost of General Trimble's uniform?
$2,000 to 2,500.
What keeps you coming back year after year?
The people. I start talking Civil War history, and get going so that my wife has to cut me off. She's also involved in reenactments --- she comes to most of them with me.
Acknowledging that there are "no stupid questions," do onlookers ever ask stupid questions?
My favorites are, "Why were all the Civil War battles fought in national parks?" and "Why aren't there any bullet holes in the monuments?"
--- Meg Devine