transforms himself from a 21st century theater director for the IMAX 3D Theater at White River State Park into a 19th century Civil War soldier as a re-enactor with Indianapolis-based Mid States Living History Association Inc.
Brown’s interest in the past began as a child. He was fascinated with older people in his small town of Hagerstown, Ind.
“I would sit at the old soda fountain in the drugstore and talk to old folks about their lives and what they did,” Brown recalls. “The one thing that has been a constant in my life is my interest in people.”
He began doing historic presentations and re-enactments at the age of 14.
Brown, 55, recently returned from a reenactment in Olustee, Fla., the site of the largest Civil War battle in the state. He has participated several times in the annual event-both as a Union and Confederate artillery soldier.
Through participation with the not-forprofit Mid States Living History Association, Brown and other re-enactors approach history in a different way-“not
so much by what was on the calendar or in history books in the way of battles or events but more the lifestyles and stories of the people who made history,” he said.
The National Parks Services has certified Brown to operate artillery, but even with advanced training, injuries happen.
Brown sometimes gets minor burns from firing the cannons.
Re-enactors wear the same type of wool uniforms soldiers wore in bitter cold winters and blazing hot summers. Brown’s mettle was tested when he portrayed a 1740s-era Spanish artillery
crewmember-complete with a threepiece wool uniform.
“After standing on a gun deck at the fort in St. Augustine in June, where the heat and sun are extremely intense, everything else isn’t so bad,” Brown said, laughing.
To be a re-enactor, Brown said, “you have to be pretty rough and rugged.”
“It’s not always the most comfortable environments to be in,” he said. “You sleep on the ground, in the rain. You also have to have an intense interest in history and in the folks who made history.”
Being a re-enactor is almost like being in the military reserve, because he usually participates in at least one event a month as well as spending summer vacations taking part in a larger event, Brown said.
His first experience as a re-enactor at Olustee’s battlefield has been most memorable.
“I was on the artillery crew with a cannon,” Brown said. “At the end of the battle, there is a charge by the Confederate
cavalry and the cannon is captured.
“The first time I saw a cavalry charge of really gritty looking Confederates-sabers and pistols drawn-charging at that cannon, it was a frightening sight. Although it wasn’t the real thing, for a split second you had a sense of the terror those guys must have felt.”
Dave Brown portrays a Union artillery corporal at the Indiana World War Memorial’s Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum. Brown fires cannons similar to the one shown during re-enactments of Civil War battles. He will be at Cincinnati’s Tall Ships Festival in October.