Not so long ago Leigh Ann Hardy did the laundry at Civil War events.
Dressed in a hoop skirt, she’d labor over a wash tub and scrub board, giving spectators a glimpse of camp life.
These days Hardy wears trousers and lugs a 10-pound rifle and a cartridge box across smoke-filled fields.
As Pvt. Leon Hardy of the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, “I’m one of the guys,” says the Marietta resident.
The retired Army sergeant and dirt bike enthusiast became interested in re-enacting when she and her son, Kevin (left), saw an exhibition at Stone Mountain.
“This is so cool,” she thought.
Hardy, an account manager, eventually found the 125th, and has been a participant in events across the South for 11 years.
Acceptance wasn’t easy at first. As you might guess, Civil War re-enacting is an overwhelmingly male activity.
“It took me a long time to gain the trust of the group,” Hardy, 55, says.
To do so, she had to fit in and “take it like a man."
Female re-enactors are urged to keep their hair short and apply black powder to roughen their chins. They should even be careful about which restroom they use, according to Miss Ellie’s Emporium Web site.
Hardy is accustomed to “guy behavior” and good-natured ribbing.
“I spent 20 years in the U.S. Army,” says Hardy. “I can give it back.”
Historians say at least 400 women disguised themselves as men during the Civil War so that they could fight at the front. Incentives included high pay and newfound independence at a time when most women were second-class citizens.
Hardy loves camp life: reveille, campfires, coffee and roll call.
She’s among the 1,800 blue and gray re-enactors who will relive four Atlanta-area battles over the Labor Day weekend. The three-day event takes place at Nash Farm in Henry County. Hardy also will give a talk on the role of women in the Civil War.
"I've had some of the best times of my life with the 125th OVI. They are a great group of people....like a family."
The 125th, of course, re-enacts in enemy country.
“The crowds boo us, and I love it,” says Hardy. “I like being with the bad guys.”