Couple relives the Civil War era SOUTHEAST--Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber


March 23, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Should the South rise again, bet a Confederate dollar that its resurgence begins in the restored tenant house of a plantation-style mansion on a rural road near Sykesville.

There, amid portraits of Rebel heroes, Confederate flags and military relics, Arthur and Carole Twigg, Civil War enthusiasts with strong Southern sympathies, have formed a living history and cultural group called the Maryland Members of the Confederacy.

"We can't let this era of history go," explains Mr. Twigg, a building engineer for Loyola Federal Operations Center in Glen Burnie. "There was a lot of stress then. We can never imagine what those people went through. War was fought right in their front yards."

The Twiggs, both Baltimore natives, chartered their group with three other members. They want to teach others about the cultural and political life of the South. And although they hope to recruit re-enactors, they don't intend to glamorize war.

"The first time I saw a re-enactment I became sweaty," says Mr. Twigg, a member of the 43rd Battalion of Virginia Partisan Rangers, better known as Mosby's Rangers. "I still cannot understand the faith these people had in their causes and their leaders. You just don't see that anymore."

Their group will be politically correct: Slavery won't be something they embellish either.

"I think slavery was just about the most cruel thing that was ever done," Mrs. Twigg says. "It's not our cause. Our interest is how these people lived otherwise and what the South was."

The Twiggs, along with charter member Louis Graziaplena of Brooklyn, believe the war was fought not over slavery, but over states' rights.

"I prefer to believe that the War of Secession was fought for state rights more than the popular theory of slavery," Mr. Graziaplena says. "I honestly believe the federal government started flexing its muscles and started infringing on state rights."

Membership will be open to anyone, regardless of heritage.

"We don't require paperwork," says Mr. Twigg, 53. "You won't have to prove anything. We want to give a lot of people the opportunity to learn more about the Civil War and become involved."

Mrs. Twigg, also 53, a customer service representative for the Motor Vehicle Administration, has been a Civil War buff since childhood. She can trace her family history to the War Between the States, when her great-great-uncle Cornelius Wyckoff fought in the Wilderness Campaign and other battles. He was married to a cousin of John Wilkes Booth.

"He believed the South was right in the stand she took," says Mrs. Twigg, who, like other family members, has a copy of his journal. "He also believed the South was not a lost cause."

Mr. Graziaplena, 50, doesn't believe it, either.

"Time has proven lots of their ways would not have been bad for us," says Mr. Graziaplena, who also works for the MVA. "Their slow, methodical, systematic style of living would have been better than what now has become the perennial rat race. I really believe their style of living would have worked out better than presently."

Mr. Graziaplena and the Twiggs will have to settle for nostalgia.

"I respect those people so much," Mr. Twigg says. "A lot of people say they were crazy to line up like they did and do battle. I would like to know what motivated them. They had nothing, gained nothing and lost everything."

To promote their cause, the couple plans to have an open house this summer on the grounds of the circa-1850 mansion and its tenant house on Raincliffe Road off Route 32.

The Twiggs hope to have re-enactment groups and serve food, such as ham sandwiches, fruit and lemonade, that would have been presented at a Civil War-era picnic.

History surrounds the Twiggs. The couple are sub-curators, living rent-free in the two-story home through a state-run program. The tenant house, built in the late 1700s, was part of a large dairy farm. The couple restored the home and are required to maintain the mansion grounds as part of the state program.

The couple, who have three grown children and six grandchildren, read Civil War books and boast a collection of some 60 volumes.

They also are avid fans of the PBS Civil War series and the movie, "Glory," which depicted black Civil War soldiers.

Mr. Twigg hasn't always been a Civil War buff and admits some allegiance to the North. But his wife's enthusiasm and admiration for Southern military leaders -- Robert E. Lee is her hero -- has prompted his interest in the Rebel cause.

"Now I'm so involved, I can't let go," says Mr. Twigg, who sports a gray beard similar to General Lee's. "It's an everyday thing."

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