Jon Blasingame has participated in re-enactments before, but never one the size and scale of this weekend’s Battle of Chickamauga.
"Most of the time, we have seven to 12 rifles in our group," he said.
But the regimen he’ll join up with this weekend—Hardee Guard Battalion—will have at least 70 rifles. John Culpepper, Chickamauga city manager, heard Blasingame wanted to participate and invited him to join the Hardee Guard Battalion.
The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga is this weekend. Re-enactments take place throughout the weekend at 838 Dougherty Gap Road in Chickamauga.
A California native, Blasingame first became interested in re-enactments three years ago. His cousin invited him to join the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
He’s a self-proclaimed Civil War buff and, through research, found links to family members who were involved in the battle, including his great-grandfather, Benjamin J.G. Blasingame.
"I was doing a little genealogical research," he said. "I found out he was a first lieutenant in the Arkansas 4th Battalion Company E. He enlisted on Nov. 7, 1861."
He knows for a fact that his great-grandfather’s unit joined with Brig. Gen. Evander McNair's brigade as a part of Longstreet’s division of the Confederacy.
"That’s where my great-grandfather was," Blasingame said. "I know where they were, and the thought that I’m here is meaningful."
Part of being a re-enactor is not only playing soldier but also serving as a living historian for guests attending the re-enactment.
"A lot of what we do is answer questions," he said. "Everybody knows something different. It’s a lot like being in a classroom."
The other element of a re-enactor is authenticity. Blasingame said you could spend a lot of money on a realistic costume.
"You don’t want to have anything that is out of period," he said. "Personally, you try to dress and find the artifacts that make you more authentic."
A lot of the authenticity comes with research and collecting bits and pieces over time. Not unlike other live-action role playing, re-enactors create their own costumes and character personalities over time. For Blasingame, this character is "Cpl. Cherokee of Company E Palmetto Guard, 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, Kershaw Brigade, and now, Longstreet Corps."
Blasingame sought out the Battle of Chickamauga as a way to both honor his ancestors and participate in a much larger battle than can be found in northern California.
"I started looking at one of the newspapers, and one of them had an advertisement for Chickamauga," he said. "I called up [Culpepper] and told him I didn’t know anybody going to the battle, and he offered to let me join his brigade."
The Battle of Chickamauga is a stop on an extended vacation for Blasingame and his wife. Instead of a beach vacation this year, he proposed the idea of visiting Civil War battlefields and participating in the battle. Surprisingly, his wife, Diana, agreed to the journey.
As for the battle, Blasingame is awestruck.
"You hear about a few hundred or a few thousand deaths today," he said. "Imagine 23,000 in a single battle ... Chickamauga had about 35,000 deaths."
He and his wife plan to spend time on Lookout Mountain while in town. Blasingame will participate both Saturday and Sunday at events surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga.
Updated @ 9:06 a.m. on 9/18/13 to correct a factual error: Blasingame will be participating in the re-enactment as part of the Hardee Guard Battalion, not as part of the Hardee Brigade, as originally reported.
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