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The Yankees are coming

By Greg Gelpi

With black powder rifles cracking and canons booming, about 200 re-enactors donning Confederate and Union military uniforms will wage battle this weekend.

Historical Jonesboro will commemorate the 140th Anniversary of the Civil War's Battle of Jonesboro Saturday and Sunday. Re-enactors will follow the same troop movements as the original battle as history comes alive on the grounds of Stately Oaks Plantation.

Glen Booher, a supervisor for Norfolk and Southern Railroad, will be joining the infantry for the Battle of Jonesboro.

"I don't like watching," Booher, a fan of history, said. "I like doing."

Since 1996, he has participated in the re-enactment as a member of the 30th Georgia, a re-enactment group. He likened picking up a rifle and hitting the battlefield to sports fans who want to join the action.

Civil War action will begin with a parade at 9 a.m. Saturday, and Yankee soldiers will encounter Confederate soldiers at the gates of Stately Oaks Plantation around 10 a.m.

The smell of the gunpowder and the attention to detail of the participants gets his "heart pumping" and creates a "Kodak moment feeling," Booher said.

"I always liked history and things that happened in the past," he said.

Much of the action will take place on the battlefield, but a "living history" will be showcased throughout the grounds of Stately Oaks as well.

Martha Wilson, 60, will display an array of women's and children's dresses as would have been worn at the time of the Civil War.

"It will encompass what most every lady would have had in her wardrobe," Wilson said, showing her own period clothing, down to the shoes on her feet. "If you're going to do this, you've got to do it right from the bottom up."

Wearing wire-rimmed glasses handmade by her optometrist to resemble those worn by Benjamin Franklin, she said she researches the dress of the time, so the dresses she makes are as close to the real thing as possible.

Her husband, Gene Wilson, a history instructor at Georgia Perimeter College, will show the Civil War-era weapons he has restored as well.

A "master" blacksmith from North Carolina will demonstrate his craft behind the plantation, Ted Key, a member of Historical Jonesboro, said. Key and other members of the society swept the shed Tuesday that the blacksmith will be using and tried the old-fashioned grits grinder, gearing up for the weekend of events.

In efforts to continually restore the plantation to its former glory, the Juddy Store has been renovated, selling everything historic "even the old timey Whirley Pops" popcorn popper, Key said.

"We even sell moonshine jelly here," he said. "Clayton County used to be famous for moonshine."

The Battle of Jonesboro re-enactment will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The parade will begin at the Jonesboro Courthouse on North McDonough Street and finish at Stately Oaks. A barbecue will be held at the Old Jail, 125 King St., Jonesboro, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday for $5 and a street dance will be from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. A memorial service will be at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Jonesboro Cemetery.

Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens, $4 for children ages 5 to 11 and free for children under the age of 5.

There will be free parking and a shuttle at the Jonesboro Courthouse. For more information, call (770) 473-0197 or visit www.historicaljonesboro.org.