I have enjoyed shooting the Battle of Huck’s Defeat at Historic Brattonsville for the past two years. So much so, in fact, that I have decided to put some other reenactments on my calendar over the next few months. As luck would have it, my first stop was less than an hour from home, at Historic Latta Plantation in Charlotte. Every year they host the reenactment of the Battle of Charlotte, which occurred a few miles away, in what is now “Uptown Charlotte”, on September 26, 1780.
I’ll leave the details and significance of the original battle to those who are more knowledgeable about the subject and keep my focus on the reenactment. While the battle is the focus of the event, the reenactors (and, in some cases, their entire families) spend the weekend camping and living just as they would have in the late 18th century. These ladies and gentlemen do more than simply dress in costume and “rough it” for a couple of days. They become de facto teachers of the hundreds of guests who come to these sites to watch and learn.
They also present themselves as excellent subject matter for the camera! And that, of course, is why I attend. In the camps I use a longer lens, shooting from a distance, as I prefer to capture candid images, rather than stiff, unrealistic awkward poses. In general, I look for two things: Good light and some sort of “gesture” or movement that conveys a story or mood.
Clicking on the photos below will enlarge them and provide more detail.
If the soldiers are not involved in some sort of drill, or preparing cartridges for the battle, you will often find them standing or sitting in small groups, chatting. The women, on the other hand, usually seem to be doing something, little girls and puppies notwithstanding.
Of course the highlight of the day is the battle. That’s when the crowds appear and the attention of everyone on site is drawn to a single location and event. Historic Latta Plantation is a smaller venue, which means the spectators – and the photographers – can get a closer look than they can at other places. Beyond the visual, the orders and conversations between the soldier are also within earshot, adding to the show.
From a photographic standpoint, everything changes. Instead of having the time to wait for the right expression, or light, or for people to clear out of the background, shooting the battle is a bit more frenetic. One literally never knows what might happen, or where, or when. I still do my best to find the stories within the larger stories. The image at the top of this page, which is repeated in the gallery below, may be one of my favorite examples of that from this event.
I look forward to my next reenactment opportunity, which should be in Camden, South Carolina in November. That will be a much larger event with some different opportunities and challenges. There are also some civil war reenactments on my calendar.