By Scott Robertson
John “Pappy” Hawthorne (pictured below) adjusts the bright red hat that marks him today as a member of the Union artillery. He likes the artillery more than the infantry, he says, because you don’t have to march so much.
It’s easy to imagine those same words coming from an actual United States Army artillery sergeant 150 years ago. The Union’s heavy wool uniforms were useful in winter, but hot as blazes when marching on 80 degree days like last Sunday at Tipton-Haynes Historic site. It’s also better to work artillery because you don’t get “shot” as much. Once you go down, Pappy says, there’s nothing to do but lie in the grass and bake till it’s over.
Pappy knows from whence he speaks. His first re-enactment was at Tipton-Haynes in 1988 and he’s been coming back ever since. He’s fought on both sides, and in multiple roles. “We could do this every weekend if we were up for the travel,” he says. “But we just do about one a month.”
For Pappy and his fellow re-enactors, these events are like family reunions, opportunities to catch up with friends from years gone by. For most spectators, they’re chances to glimpse a bit of history and a bit of showmanship. For some, they’re chances to relay their heritage to a new generation. For Tipton-Haynes, they’re a chance to show off the historic site, one of the region’s underrated treasures.
“I’ve done a lot of these over the years,” Pappy says. “But Tipton-Haynes will always have a special place in my heart.”
All photos by Chris Robertson.