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Blue and Gray: Union Infantry: Mark Taylor

Civil War Reenactors: Native Alabaman takes best shot at impersonating Union private

Blue and Gray: Union Infantry: Mark Taylor


Synovus’ Mark Taylor, in Union blues, takes a bead on an imaginary Johnny Reb. On another day, he just as easily might be the target of a Federal sniper.



Historians say a well-trained Civil War infantryman could fire three shots in 60 seconds with the muzzle-loading muskets and rifles of the day. “I don’t know that I can fire three aimed shots,” says Mark Taylor, “but I can get off three shots in a minute.”

Taylor, 25, caught the reenacting bug when he was in the fourth grade. He grew up in Alabama and learned the basics of his state’s history. The Civil War particularly caught his attention. In 1997 young Taylor went to his first reenactment and he liked everything about it. As soon as he grew old enough, he joined a reenactors’ group.

     
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  This is one of four profiles of banker-reenactors.  
     
Today Taylor, a credit analyst with Synovus Financial Corp., is a big Civil War reader. He estimates he’s read more than 150 works about the struggle. “Most of what I like to read is from the individual soldier’s point of view,” says Taylor. He enjoys learning about how they lived, how they really dressed, and how they fought. As a result, rather than some of the big works about the war, he tends to read diaries by folks only the serious researcher or hobbyist would know by name.

Currently Taylor, who lives in Phenix City, Ala., just across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, Ga., where Synovus Bank is headquartered, belongs to the Independent Rifles reenactment group. The Rifles are based in Nashville, Tenn. Members come from many areas and assemble at living history exhibitions, battle reenactments, and tactical exercises.

How does an Alabaman who works in Georgia and belongs to a Nashville reenactors group come to be wearing Union blue? As Taylor and other southern reenactors told us, in the South, everyone wants to wear Confederate gray. But that would make for very lopsided events. So nearly everyone has a double kit—Confederate and Federal. Taylor reenacts a private in both blue and gray, and often plays a Yankee so there’s a two-sided conflict.
 
 
 
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Reenactor Mark Taylor—a Synovus banker in real life—stands at ease but still ready. Reenactors don’t smile in costume for photos because it was not typical for people to smile in photographs back in those times.


Independent Rifles members, like Taylor, tend to be purists. They adapt their basic uniforms as much as possible to what was in use and available during the time that the battle or event they are reenacting took place. (The Rifles are not patterned after an actual historical unit, as some reenactment groups are.)

“We tailor our impression to the event we’re going to,” Taylor explains. “We try to get as close as we can.” Taylor owns four weapons, choosing different items depending on which side and time period he’s reenacting. One longarm, for instance, is a pre-war civilian gun, something Taylor says was commonly carried into battle early on in the South’s war.

While serious reenactors spend much time on detail, there are times when they join their fellows and just “shoot at each other and whoop and holler,” says Taylor. The biggest event he’s attended was a reenactment at Sharpsburg, Md.—site of the Battle of Antietam, the war’s bloodiest day. Taylor aspires to make it to one of huge Gettysburg reenactments someday.

While he enjoys history and handling the weapons, Taylor readily answers, when asked what he likes best, with “the camaraderie.”

At a campfire, Taylor says, the fellow on your left may be a janitor and the fellow on your right may be a CEO. “But once you get your Civil War clothes on,” says Taylor, “everybody’s on a level playing field.” And in the morning, battlefield.
Steve Cocheo

Steve Cocheo’s career in business journalism has taken him to all 50 states and nearly every corner of banking in institutions of all sizes. He is executive editor of ABA Banking Journal, digital content manager of ababj.com, and editor of ABA Bank Directors Briefing. He coordinates the popular Pass the Aspirin and First Person features and wrote the booklet series Focus On The Bank Director. He is the only journalist to have sat in on three federal banking exams, was a finalist for the Jesse H. Neal national business journalism awards, and a winner of multiple awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors.

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