Actor enjoys bringing history to life

Ed Mann's hobby as a living-history actor grew out of learning about his family during the Civil War.


"Everybody has history. I had researched my ancestors. They were two brothers, and they were both in the 12th Virginia Infantry out of Petersburg, Va.," said Mann, who portrays Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson.

"They fought in battles like the Battle of the Crater. They also fought in the Battle of the Wilderness, the Peninsula Campaign, the Siege of Petersburg and the Battle of Seven Pines," he said.

After the war, his great-grandfather and namesake, Edwin Murray Mann, was a clerk of court in Williamsburg, Va., and later became the first judge of the city of Petersburg. Mann's great-uncle William Hodges Mann became a senator and then governor of Virginia from 1910 to 1914.

"I started going to the re-enactments and saw what was going on and thought this was a neat thing to do. It was family oriented, and you get to meet a lot of kids," he said.

Mann is a member of the Barnard E. Bee Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Aiken, the group that puts together the annual Battle of Aiken. He is also a member of Voices From the Past, a group of living-history actors.

Mann portrays Stonewall Jackson as a major in the U.S. Army before the beginning of the Civil War and as a Confederate general. Mann said he has both Union and Confederate uniforms for his portrayals.

When it comes to the uniforms, Mann said, the re-enacting hobby does not come cheap.

"We don't have grants to buy things. Everybody buys things out of their own pocket," he said. "The North had all their uniforms made in factories, so they were all dressed alike. A lot of the uniforms in the South were handmade, so you see a lot of variation in the color gray. When you see the Southern re-enactors, it's really a ragtag of different uniforms and styles."

Mann said anyone wanting to authentically re-create a Civil War soldier's uniform needs to be prepared to pay for it.

"You can get a complete soldier's outfit for around $600. In the long run, for the average re-enactor, it's a better quality product. If you buy a rifle, you're going to add another $400," he said. "For officers, it's about $1,000 for just the uniform. That's not including swords and guns."

Mann said one of the things he enjoys most about his hobby is getting a chance to teach children history, both in schools and at re-enactments around the country.

Seeing a living, breathing person can help children get excited about history, Mann said.

"It's a type of history lesson that they can acquire. You can't read that type of history out of a book," he says. "The goal for me is to get kids to read about history. If I can get kids to read history books, I feel like I've done my job."

Ed Mann

Age: 62


QUOTE: "The goal for me is to get kids to read about history. If I can get kids to read history books, I feel like I've done my job."