Couple helps re-enact Civil War battles

Marching from the concealment of the trees, Union soldiers filed out into an open field, prompting shouts from nearby Confederate soldiers who jumped to their muskets.

"Get them up that hill," a Confederate soldier shouted at artillerymen as their comrades charged the field.

Across the field, Doug Wright, a Union officer, stayed along the tree line, watching the action.

His wife, AnnaLuree, stood nearby, a black powder pistol at the hip of her blue floral dress. Watching the battle from beneath her straw hat, she paused - to snap a photo with her digital camera.

Two eras collided Sept. 11-12 at Bost Grist Mill in Concord when re-enactors portrayed a Civil War battle.

The Wrights, a couple from Concord, have been involved in war re-enacting for more than 15 years.

They belong to the 30th N.C. Troops, Company K, a group of local re-enactors who participate in re-enactments across the country. The group, which has traveled as far as Canada to participate in war re-enactments, is part of the Living History Association of North Carolina.

The unit, which has about 50 members, is named after a real Civil War unit: the 30th N.C. Troops, which was organized in September 1861 at Camp Mangum in Wake County. Company K was made up of soldiers from Mecklenburg County.

The re-enactors' group also has an alter ego - the 9th Pennsylvania, Company H - when they perform as Union soldiers. They chose the unit because the real 30th N.C. Troops faced the Pennsylvania unit at the Second Battle of Fredericksburg in 1863.

For the Wrights, who celebrated their 28th anniversary last week, war re-enacting is about education and history.

"Re-enactors, by and large, are amateur historians," said Doug Wright. "We're not into the politics."

The 30th N.C. Troops wear both blue and grey, meaning they play the roles of both Union and Confederate soldiers.

War re-enacting shouldn't be about glorifying the South or taking a political stance, said Wright.

"I don't get into whether it was a good cause," he said. "History is what it is. We can't change it."

Wright, a retired detective from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department who now works as a fraud investigator for Bank of America, got involved in war re-enacting in 1994 when a co-worker introduced him to the 30th N.C. Troops.

Since then it's become a family hobby. Doug has served as captain of the unit for six years, and AnnaLuree jumped in, too, becoming chairwoman of the unit's civilian branch, the Col. Francis Marion Parker Civilian Alliance. The Wrights' two sons have also participated in re-enactments.

For AnnaLuree, the biggest battle is getting dressed. There's the pantalettes, chemise, corset, corset cover, under petticoat, hoopskirt, over petticoat and then finally the dress.

It takes about 20 minutes to get dressed, she said.

AnnaLuree, who teaches sewing classes, has made several of her own dresses.

Doug has his share of gear, too: a civilian coat, a Confederate officer's uniform, a Confederate private's uniform and a Union officer's uniform.

There were no Civil War battles in Cabarrus County, said Wright. The closest action was in Salisbury, as well as a skirmish in Monroe known as the Battle of Wilson's Store. But with hundreds of acres and an open field to serve as a battlefield, Bost Grist Mill makes a good site for a 1860s-style clash.

This was the fourth year that the 30th N.C. Troops hosted an event at the historic mill. Last year, about 2,500 people came to watch the Battle of Bost Grist Mill.

As the leader of the re-enactment, Wright plans the battle by examining the field and creating a battle plan that would be interesting for both re-enactors and the crowd who gathers to watch.

He gathered the officers, gave them instructions and let the battle play out in front of him as smoke billowed from cannons and the Confederate cavalry stormed the field.

Wright wore the uniform of Union officer, and Union troops were victorious at the Sept. 12 re-enactment.

But re-enactors engaged in battle each day of the two-day event, allowing southern troops to win one day and Union troops the next.

It's a family-oriented unit, explained AnnaLuree. It's also a chance for the re-enactors, who see each other at events across the country, to get together and catch up, she said.

"This is like our second family."