The Battle of Jonesboro: Reliving history

By Justin Boron

A little more than 200 living historians will reenact the Union raid on Jonesboro this weekend, and for many of them, the plumes of smoke and barked orders are more than just history recreated. For some, the cannon shots, under which more than 5,000 men from the North and South died in 1864, provide for a reunion with those whose ancestors fought in the pivotal Civil War battle.

Members of the 30th Georgia reenactment group come from all over the Southeast and occasionally from as far as Australia to depict the Battle of Jonesboro (or its mid-nineteenth century spelling of Jonesborough ).

They come armed with authenticity backed by research that probes deep into family backgrounds.

Using what knowledge they can glean from old letters, military records, and photos, some re-enactors go as far as portraying a specific family member.

Timothy Knight, a member of the 30th Georgia reenactment group, said he doesn't go that in-depth. But when he digs into the battlefield, the three family members who fought in the war are never too far from his conscious thoughts.

”We're honoring our ancestors when we do this,“ said Knight, who has participated in the event since 1993.

Larry Rogers, whose great, great, grandfather lived in Stockbridge and fought in the Jonesboro battle, said the battle works like a time machine for him.

From his research he was able to find out that his ancestor was captured at the battle and eventually taken to Illinois.

”It's just kind of cool to go there and know that my great, great grandfather was there,“ he said.

Researching family members can be difficult. Often, the living historians will have to sort through misspelled names and name changes.

For example, Rogers said his name used to be spelled ”Rodgers.“

Knight said the ones in the Jonesboro battle are necessarily special. They're just the ones that have taken the time to delve into the past.

”Eighty-percent of the people that live in this country have one ancestor who fought in a war,“ he said.

For that reason, he said he thinks the re-enactments will continue to happen.

”I think there always will be a desire for people to portray the ancestors from their past,“ Knight said.

To honor those that died in the battle, the event will include a memorial service at the Confederate cemetery in Jonesboro.