When Union and Confederate soldiers square off this fall, James Reed hopes to be among them on the side of the South portraying General James Lawson Kemper at a battlefield in Hartford City, Indiana, site of one of the largest Civil War re-enactment events in the country.
Mr. Reed, 69, is recovering from an illness at Community Nursing and Rehabilitation in Indianapolis, but the progress he has made gives him hope that he will also be with his re-enactor family and friends when Hartford City holds its annual Civil War re-enactment October 11-13.
Mr. Reed can now stand, thanks to the therapy he has received. He had hoped to attend the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's most famous battle, the Battle of Gettysburg, where there were more than 50,000 casualties over three days July 1-3, 1863. The anniversary of that event was observed for 10 days through July 4th in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
He has been a part of the Texas Brigade re-enactor group for 25 years. The brigade, which includes 1,200 people, participates in reenactments throughout Indiana and the Midwest.
When Mr. Reed gets into character, he gets in all of the way, he said. This means he may have to run or shoot his weapon or charge. General Kemper did. The soldiers stay in tents and eat food that is cooked in the open, like they did during the years of the war. All of this activity requires him to be in good shape. That's why it is critical that his therapy help him get where he needs to be, he said.
"I always put myself in the place," said Mr. Reed, adding that the therapy has been rigorous but effective.
He became a re-enactor after watching a re-enactment three decades ago. Soon he was with the Texas Brigade, which is almost like a family. "Re-enactor people are some of the best people you can run into," said Mr. Reed, who is a retired boiler operator. "We have lawyers, doctors, nurses, truck drivers, retired policemen."
His son joined a group. His fiancé also participates and makes his uniforms by hand. He has four other grown children and 10 grandchildren and some of them may join, too.
Born in Tennessee, Mr. Reed came from the South and spends a lot of time researching the Civil War. He spent two tours in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
After a heart attack, he spent a few months in a hospital. This gave him time to do more reading. About 25 years ago, for the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Mr. Reed was with his Texas Brigade at that observance, which was held on a private farm. This year, it will be at the actual site of the battle.
"So far, I'm progressing really well," said Mr. Reed. I couldn't even get out of bed when I got here. I can stand now."
Operated by American Senior Communities, Community Nursing and Rehabilitation offer tours of its Moving Forward Rehabilitation Center, where Mr. Reed is a patient. For more information, call 317-356-0911, or please visit the website at www.ASCSeniorCare.com/cnr.