Dusty Rhodes’s first Civil War reenactment was July 21, 1961, on the 100th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas. A Virginia native, he was part of the Confederate infantry.
That reenactment 50 years ago was nothing compared to the ones today, he says. Back then, he tells me, the soldiers had little regard for authenticity and would take the field with whatever rifle they had from home and khakis or gray slacks.
Rhodes is now the provost marshal for the Confederate cavalry regiment I camped with last night. The position makes him camp security guard. He took on the assignment 15 years ago because of his temperate disposition; he could always defuse a fight without throwing a fist.
The biggest problem is spectators rummaging through (and sometimes walking away with) camp gear.
“[Reenactment] Provost marshals can arrest a thief and have the soldiers hold them until the police arrive,” Rhodes said.
But mainly he tends to the horses when the men are away. Around midnight, after two hours of chatting, I prepared for bed. While in my pup tent I saw him moving around the horses tied up to a picket line.
He stroked their hair, asked how they were. He walked away and returned with a heap of hay and threw it on the ground. Then he went to his tent.