The reenactment for the Battle of Decatur was a wonderful experience
Every Labor Day weekend, war reenactors from across the country gather in northern Alabama to commemorate the Battle of Decatur, and this year marks the 159th anniversary. Being a transplant to the South, a new resident of Decatur, and completely captivated by American history—my dream vacations are battlefields and historical sites— I’ve been looking forward to this event since the day I heard about it.
The event opened to the public yesterday; providentially, I wrapped up my work just in time to make the battle. Boys Scouts manned a courtesy drink station, spectating families laid blankets at the edge of the “battlefield,” and at two o’clock in the afternoon, the cannonfire began.
The exchange lasted nearly thirty minutes, keeping the attention of my two very active young sons. Being boys, they were especially enthralled by the explosions and gunsmoke, and relished in the fact they could recognize which soldiers were in infantry, composed the cavalry, and manned the artillery, thanks to one of their favorite songs, “I’m in the Lord’s Army.” Their complete fascination afforded me a wonderful opportunity to explain that freedom is a commodity worth dying for, and countless American men have willingly given their lives for something greater than themselves.
For lodging, the reenactors had constructed a mock 1860s camp; some sleep under waxed canvas, while others sleep in the field under the stars. Camp wives cook over open fires, while one hosted a “Ladies Tea” at the Chapel, where women donned hoop skirts and antebellum dresses.
My favorite tent though, was that of the reverend. Atop a table covered by an old deer hide, he had a wooden shelf full of tracts, a number of which he’d personally found during his studies.
Told by a very prominent Orthodox Jew, Dr. Moses Rossvally, was the story of little Charlie Coulson; Charlie, too young to be a soldier, enlisted as a drummer, and just three months into his service, he was injured at Gettysburg. Rossvally, the attending physician, recalls being struck by Charlie’s trust in the salvation of Jesus as he lay on his deathbed; this experience began a decade-long internal struggle for the doctor. Years later, by providence alone, Rossvally attended a prayer meeting in Brooklyn, where an elderly woman got up to speak, saying:
My physician told me yesterday that my right lung is very nearly gone … at the best I have but a short time to be with you….
Oh! It is a great joy to know that I shall meet my boy with Jesus in heaven. My son was not only a soldier for his country, but a soldier for Christ. He was wounded at the battle of Gettysburg, and fell into the hands of a Jewish doctor … but he died five days after the operation.
All in all it was a wonderful experience, rooted in Christian brotherhood, American history and heritage, and a fierce love of country and liberty.
Images provided by the author.