Jake Hill walks on the footpaths of history

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 3, 2004

Jake Hill's grandmother has been a huge influence in his life. She set him on a path that has taken him back in time.

Hill is a member of the 14th Alabama Cavalry Civil War re-enactment group and enjoys playing out roles that he learned as a youngster.

"When I was younger my grandmother would take me to places of historical significance," he said. "We often went to the state archives building and did research and visited the state capitol. I learned a lot about history and learned to really enjoy it."

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When Hill was older, his interest changed from passive enjoyment of history to active involvement. As a student at Troy University, he worked part time at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama where he became more immersed in the realities of history. He also joined the 14th Alabama Cavalry in Alexander City as a buck private.

"That's the lowest rank but that's the rank for me," Hill said. "There's no responsibility associated with it and no paper work. And, too, I just want to 'live the life' of a soldier at the low end of the ranks."

Hill said the life of a private during the Civil War was far from glamorous.

"I line up and I drill and march and do whatever I'm told to do," he said. "But, I like that because I'm walking in the footpaths of history."

Hill said there is no better way to understand history and those who lived in than to walk a mile in their shoes.

"It makes all the difference in the world," Hill said. "To read about history is one thing. To actually live it is another."

Hill has participated in several re-enactments including the Battle of Selma and the Battle of Shiloh at Shiloh National Military Park in Tennessee.

He most recently participated in the Heritage March at the burial of Alberta Martin, the last widow of an Alabama Confederate soldier.

At the time, it was thought that Martin was the last widow of a Civil War soldier. An Arkansas woman now claims that she is the widow of a Civil War veteran.

But that doesn't diminish the role Hill played in the burial service.

"Still, I was a part of history," he said. "Alberta Martin was the widow of a Confederate soldier and not many people these days have an opportunity to participate in that kind of service."

Hill participated in the half-mile Heritage March behind the caisson to the Ebenezer Baptist Church cemetery at Curtis where Martin was buried. He was also chosen to be a member of the honor guard that fired the 21-gun salute.

"It was quite an experience and I was proud to have been a part of it," he said.

"I want to continue to participate in War Between the States re-enactments and continue to be a part of history by walking in the footpaths of those who actually lived it."