“You’re going where?”

A friend invited me to go somewhere with her on May 2. I told her I couldn’t because I’d be headed to Virginia for a U.S. Civil War reenactment.

“Now there’s an excuse you don’t hear very often,” she said.

Reactions to my trip have ranged from “You’re going where?” to “Wow, that’s so cool!” Last week, I ran into a Chilean colleague in the hall who asked me excitedly, “How did the battles go?” I reminded him that the trip isn’t until May. An African American friend said, “Go on down and win the war for us all over again.” And pretty much everyone wants to know if I will be dressing in period clothing.

I’ll admit, it is hard to put into words why I want to visit the battlefields where my ancestor Arthur Bull fought as part of the Union Army. Pride? Awe? Fascination? It’s tough to pin down.

For years, I’ve tried to imagine what it was like for him and the others in the Army of the Potomac as winter faded and, on 3-4 May 1864, they marched out silently during the night for a spring offensive that helped to end slavery and set the country on a new path.

Though the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania were fought 150 years ago,  there is still an abiding interest in that landmark period — and sometimes a direct connection. A surprising number of people have said, “You know, I have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War,” and gone on to tell me their story.

Best of all was my friend Jane’s reaction, “I would love to go with you!” So on May 2, she and I will embark on our journey. Check back here for dispatches from the field.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

 

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