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Louisiana Folklife Center hosts talk on why military re-enactors do what they do

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Northwestern State University’s Louisiana Folklife Center is hosting a symposium Tuesday featuring six historical military re-enactors who will discuss the cultural significance of reenactment.

Natchitoches attorney Eddie Harrington is one of the speakers. He’s coordinating the Battle of Natchitoches this weekend where soldiers will clash on Front Street.

“We’re expecting about 300 rifles, which is 300 re-enactors (soldiers) to be here. We’re going to have a replica ironclad ship on [Cane] River lake firing cannons. The battle is going to take place in the streets of Natchitoches. There’s going to be a lot of civilian re-enactors who are going to be the townspeople when the troops come in,” Harrington said, who portrays a private in the 12th Louisiana Volunteer Infantry group.

The director of the Louisiana Folklife Center, Shane Rasmussen, wants to better understand why re-enactors take up this hobby and go to great lengths to relive the past.

“I want to know why they do what they do. That’s the question that always intrigues me. The way that they’re going to express themselves ultimately will be more fluent, interesting, vibrant and passionate than anything that I could talk about when I talk about them,” Rasmussen said.

Harrington has attended reenactment events since childhood. Three years ago, he decided to join the ranks of re-enactors. The history buff believes history is merely numbers on a page until a spectator sees a Civil War battle scene played out before their eyes.

This lets the kids come out and see this was real. It really happened. It’s not just dates you have to memorize. You get an actual image of it in your mind. It’s almost like seeing a movie, but in person and getting to be in the middle of it and involved in it,” Harrington said.

Harrington’s reenactment group portrays both Union and Confederate forces in several major events each year, including the Battle of Mansfield. Hundreds of people, like Harrington, play a role in bringing history to life. Harrington hopes these detailed battle scenes make an impression.

“We’re here to portray history. We’re here to show this was a tragic time in U.S. history for so many reasons, not just for the cause of the war, which was horrendous, but the loss of lives on both sides. It was more causalities than every other American war combined,” Harrington said.

Tonight’s symposium is titled “The Bridge to the Past: The Importance of Reenactment.” It takes place at the NSU Student Union’s Cane River Room at 7 p.m. It’s free and open to the public.

Harrington says Confederate soldiers will march on Front Street beginning at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The complete schedule is at Natchitoches.com.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' experience to Red River Radio having started out as a radio news reporter and moving into television journalism as a newsmagazine producer / host, talk-show moderator, programming director and managing producer and news director / anchor for commercial, public broadcasting and educational television. He has more recently worked in advertising, marketing and public relations as a writer, video producer and media consultant. In pursuit of higher learning, Chuck studied Mass Communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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