War Re-enactment Draws
A Crowd to Scottsburg
Fascinates Spectators, Participants
SCOTTSBURG, Ind. A cast-iron pot of coffee hangs
over the burning embers of a dying camp fire. Rag-tag soldiers lie on
blankets in the shade of tall maples, their small tents huddled in rows
Occasionally, a rifle cracks in the distance. A soldier
stirs briefly, then rolls over to catch a few more winks as mid-morning
approaches, bringing with it yet another skirmish with Union troops
hot on their trail.
Such was the scene July 8-9 at the Scottsburg 4-H Fairgrounds, south
of town. But it could have also been the case 137 years ago, as Confederate
Gen. John Hunt Morgan led a hostile band of mounted soldiers through
this area as part of his great raid of 1863.
Hundreds of Civil War enthusiasts from Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio gathered
over the weekend to re-enact Morgans Raid. The event, in its second
year, was sponsored by the nonprofit Preservation Alliance Inc. in cooperation
with the Scott County Convention, Recreation and Visitor Commission.
Proceeds will be used to build a $1.1 million local history museum,
said Preservation Alliance president Mike Smith. The group must raise
$300,000 to qualify for state matching funds before design and construction
This event is a neat way to celebrate our heritage, and it gives
people an idea of what it was really like back then, said Smith,
who estimated attendance at double from last years 500.
The two-day event featured men, women and children dressed in period
clothing, many of them camping in Civil War-type tents. They ate authentic
food and took part in re-enactments of battles, post-battle hospital
demonstrations, town meetings and a Victorian fashion show. On Saturday
night, they attended a military ball.
There were also many tents set up to sell Civil War souvenirs, period
clothing and other items. Among them was Louisianas Jack Moore,
who makes period clothing. He travels the circuit all summer with an
18-foot trailer packed with his large tent, souvenirs, three sewing
machines and wool and leather materials to make such items as uniforms,
hats, gun holsters and belts.
I was a re-enactor with the Louisiana Rangers for 10 years, but
Ive been doing this for the past five years, said Moore,
who travels as far as Michigan and Illinois before returning home in
September. I see many of the same people at these events and know
most of them. Its like a big family.
Bill Sanders works as a research psychologist for the U.S. Army in Fort
Knox, Ky., most of the year. But on summer weekends, he packs up his
Confederate uniform, tent and weapons and hits the road. For the past
five years, he has been taking part in about eight re-enactments a year
and says he enjoys demonstrating his weapons and sharing authentic foods,
which he makes himself.
I love it because I get to lie in the straw, eat way too much,
cool out for 2 _ days and dance the Virginia Reel at night, he
said. Its a lot more fun to do it than to come out here
Sanders belongs to the 5th Kentucky Confederate Infantry and owns an
1861 model 58-caliber Springfield rifle, valued at $450. He eagerly
fires the Italian-made replica for visitors. He says most re-enactors
invest at least $1,000 for the basics uniforms and gear and weapons
to participate in such events.
BellSouth Mobility sales representative Brian Mercke of Louisville belongs
to the same unit and has been a re-enactor for six years.
I got involved because I love history, says the University
of Kentucky history major as he fries a skillet of bacon over an open
fire. I had relatives in the war and found out about these guys
Ron Orange works as a sales manager for Schwanns Food Co. in Bowling
Green, Ky. But on weekends, he reports to duty as Capt.
Ron Orange for the 12th Union Cavalry, which was mustered in Clarksville,
Tenn., prior to the war and included many men from central Kentucky.
At the Scottsburg event, Oranges 14-member mounted unit was portraying
the 10th Partisan Rangers, who rode with Gen. Morgan.
During the re-enactment of a town meeting on Saturday, Oranges
men, led by Morgan, played by Morgan Roque of Corydon, Ind., arrived
on horseback and interrupted the proceedings, shooting the marshal and
hauling off the mayor in the process. The animated group sought money
and other items from the crowd, played by unsuspecting festival-goers.
My great-great-great uncle actually rode with the 10th with Morgan,
and my great-great-great grandfather chased him with the 12th U.S. Cavalry,
said Orange, who brazenly fired several rounds of black powder and cream
of wheat from his pistol while terrorizing the crowd.
Rick Rowland of Cincinnati hauled in his 1861 model 10-pound Parrot
cannon, which he bought two years ago for $13,500, for the event.
Ive already been offered $18,000 for it, said Rowland,
who works for the New Richmond, Ohio, school corp.
Rowlands cast-iron cannon, which can fire a 10-pound ball two
miles, was one of several lined up on each end of a field where the
battle was staged. For this event, he was using 10-pound pellets of
black powder, which made a thunderous blast and required that no re-enactors
come within 40 yards. When fired, smoke bellowed into the air, temporarily
engulfing his 5th Ohio Light Artillery unit.
When I went to my first re-enactment I just fell in love with
it. I asked how to get involved, and Ive been doing it now for
12 years, Rowland said.
The cannon barrel is lined with steel to avoid it from accidentally
exploding. He keeps his black powder locked in a large, wooden box that
must be guarded at all times. Theres enough powder in this
box to blow up this entire field, he said.
Rowland has participated in national re-enactments at Gettysburg, Pa.,
Chick-amauga, Ga., and Nashville, Tenn., each of which attracts more
than 15,000 re-enactors on one battlefield. He said the hardest part
is getting people to go down and play dead.
Sometimes, they will tell you to die, he said. You
could have people out there for an hour staging a battle, but if no
one dies, it doesnt look very realistic.
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