First Lieutenant John Beatty can more than simply imagine himself donning a crisp blue Union uniform and marching off to a Civil War battlefield.
Bringing up his six, three-inch ordinance rifles, Beatty barks out orders and the six men working each of his battery cannons fires a half-pound of cannon grade black powder. Then they swab the cannons and begin the process again, as the battle surges back and forth in towns and villages made famous by the war that rocked America from 1861 to 1865.
Beatty isn’t dreaming when he hears the cannons roar around him and watches artillery pieces, cavalry and infantry from both the Union and Confederate sides trading blows under a sizzling summer sun.
Covered in wool and sweating uncomfortably and profusely, Beatty’s having the time of his life, like thousands of other patriotic Americans nationwide, living the life of a Civil War re-enactor.
For the past 18 years, Beatty, 58, Lockport High School’s veteran girls varsity tennis coach and a district teacher for more than 35 years, has been a Civil War re-enactor with Reynolds’ Battery L, 1st N.Y. Light Artillery.
“I’ve always been interested in the Civil War,” he said, while talking about visiting Gettysburg for the first time as a third grader. “Today, my wife likes to say that I’ve been to every ‘Burg east of the Mississippi.”
Beatty’s interest in becoming a re-enactor — people who dress in Civil War era uniforms and other clothing and stage mock battles with muskets, cannons and cavalry units — peaked in the mid-1990s.
“I had already filled out papers to join the 155th New York infantry in Buffalo, then I went to a Canalfest weekend and Reynolds’ Battery came and were set up along the canal for a little show and tell. I started talking to them and they convinced me to join,” Beatty said.