Wednesday, October 8, 2014

News from Around the South 9/29 – 10/6

Chris Bingham, a living historian and park ranger at Appomattox Courthouse National Park, stands for a portrait at the park. (Photo by Max Oden/The News & Advance)

VIRGINIA: Re-Enactor Assumes Identity of Man who Lived Near Battlefield

APPOMATTOX, Va. — Three times per week, Christopher Bingham lives in a time of horses and candlelight, far removed from the cars driving past the Appomattox Court House National Historic Park.
Every Saturday from May to September, Bingham, 34, of Appomattox, fulfills the role of one of the village’s original inhabitants in 1865, during the time of the Civil War and Lee’s surrender to Grant.

He shares stories of that time, assuming the identity of Thomas Tibbs, a Confederate soldier who lived less than a mile from the surrender grounds.
“I suppose I could tell you a little about what I saw back when the armies were here,” Bingham told a group of 40 visitors on a recent Saturday.
When performing living history in the park, Bingham must pretend he truly is in 1865, with no knowledge of what comes after.
To visitors, he is not an actor. He is Thomas Tibbs. After his 30-minute chat with guests about the war and what happened in Appomattox, the crowd began to applaud to his feigned shock.
“Folks I appreciate it, but I was just telling you what I’d seen,” he said. “I wasn’t acting or anything.”
Once away from the crowd, Bingham dropped Tibbs’ southern drawl and assumed his true mannerisms and identity.
Bingham has been a Civil War reenactor since 2002, starting out with a Confederate unit in North Carolina where he lived at the time.
He made the switch to living history several years ago as a National Park Service employee. In addition to his Saturday presentations, he focuses on research.
There is a difference between reenactors and living historians — reenactors usually recreate a battle, not assume a specific person’s identity, like they would as living historians. At Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, living history tends to be a lot more involved.

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