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Annual Battle of Atlanta at Nash Farm Park

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Friday, the haunting notes of a flute, and the tapping sound of a drum, floated through the air, and "Civil War soldiers," from both North and South strolled the area.

The occasional cannon blast split the air, and troops maneuvered their mounts past pedestrians, tipping their caps cordially and uttering a polite greeting as they passed.

It was the beginning of a three-day event, the annual Battle of Atlanta, which was being held at Nash Farm Park in Hampton Friday through Sunday.

Hundreds of reenactors, from a number of states, converged on the park, and groups of students from Clayton County and other school systems roamed the park with their teachers in tow.

Two of the reenactors on hand Friday were Gene Findley and Mike Brown, members of the 6th Georgia Cavalry Company "G."

For Findley, who traveled from Summerville, Ga., this was his third time taking part in the battles at Nash Farm Park.

The conflicts are still historically significant (even in 2009), he said. "They let everybody know the value of the war, and what it represented back years ago," he said.

The reenactments give Findley a chance to participate in many of his favorite activities, which is what initially sparked his interest in reenacting. "I like firearms, horses, camping and Southern history," he said. "All that comes together in reenacting."

Brown, who drove the 50 miles from Cumming to Hampton to take part in the battles, said he has been a reenactor for 27 years. The recreations are an important educational tool in the study of American history, he said.

"It kind of gives you an idea how the armies were moving, and how they would fight," he said. "What we try and do during the reenactments is demonstrate a little bit of what they did."

Hopefully, continued Brown, when spectators view the action, the battles generate enough curiosity to motivate them to read more about the actual Civil War events. "If somebody shows enough interest to come out and see a reenactment, then we've done our job," he added.

One of the students fascinated by a blacksmithing demonstration given by Dave Custer, was 10-year-old Mikayle Vaughan, a student at Amana Academy in Roswell.

The questions Mikayle asked Custer focused on the blacksmithing process, and whether he had ever burned his hand on the red-hot iron. "It's so cool," she said, after a few minutes of watching. "I thought the blacksmith was just somebody who would just fix stuff, but he makes everything."

Observing how life was lived more than 100 years ago, according to Mikayle, is an effective educational tool for her. "It helps a lot," she added.

Tammie Casteel, a teacher who accompanied a group of curious students watching a cannon-firing demonstration, was seeing Nash Farm Park as a first-time visitor.

Casteel said the lessons her students learn on site, and out of the classroom, are invaluable. "It's hands-on," she said. "They get to see it for themselves, how the people lived back then. It makes it real to them."

She said her students are unaccustomed to what Civil War families faced daily, and learning about the difficulties they endured reinforces the lessons the children are taught in school.