unique setting for living history
with Civil War portrayal
Helen E. McKinney
BEDFORD, Ky. (June 2010) As a child, the history
surrounding the Civil War time period always interested Mike Totten.
As an adult, he is able to live out that history through re-enacting
in many local events centering on the Civil War.
Seven years ago Totten found a unit he liked, the 19th Virginia, and
became involved in re-enacting as a way to teach and keep history
alive, he said.
He had also become interested in researching his family tree and discovered
two ancestors who were Union generals in the Civil War. Both were engineers,
and both were Yankees, said Totten. When it comes to the later fact,
Totten states they were just misled.
by Don Ward
Madison, Ind., enjoys
re-enacting at period
Civil War events.
Typically from April through November, Totten attends
one re-enactment per month. This keeps him on the road a lot, but he
enjoys what he does.
Totten will take part in this years Civil War Days at Preston
Plantation on June 5-6 in Bedford. He said he likes the authenticity
of the event best; the fact that no modern amenities are to be
found makes it easier to place oneself in the 19th century mindset.
Preston Plantation is in a very pristine location, Totten
said. At night, barges passing by on the river are the only sound youll
hear, said the Illinois native. Cannons echoing through the valley breaks
the daytime quiet, placing spectators back in time and in the midst
of the war.
This free event has been held at Preston Plantation since 2000. It is
located north of the Trimble County power plant off of Hwy. 1838. Cannon
demonstrations will be given, mock battles will be fought between the
Blue and the Gray, parlor games will be played and food vendors will
be on site. Visitors are encouraged to talk with the re-enactors and
visit their campsites to learn more about Trimble County history.
Saturdays battle begins at 1:30 p.m.; Sundays battle begins
at 1 p.m.
We were looking for a venue to show off Trimble County,
said Pam Venard, owner of Preston Plantation along with her husband,
Paul. They created Civil War Days at Preston Plantation
and rely solely on donations to make the event happen.
In the early to mid-1800s, the large plantation was known as Norfolk
Farm. Owner Robert Wickliffe (Old Duke) sold the farm to
his daughter Mary Howard Wickliffe Preston for $1 in 1850. Marys
sister was best friends with Mary Todd Lincoln, said Venard.
The original plantation was divided into 24 plots in 1902 and sold on
the courthouse steps. We have owned two plots since 1980,
said Venard. Her husbands mother owned the land before the Venards
bought it from her. They hope to preserve the land as a living history
It makes the perfect setting for a weekend of exploring the Civil War
era. Its always a fun time, said Totten, 56.
A 24-hour tactical will be observed by the participating re-enactors
from 10 a.m. Saturday morning until 10 a.m. Sunday morning, Totten said.
Certain areas will be designated for re-enactors only, when battles
occur each day.
In most re-enacting, you see European-style warfare, said
Totten. At this event, visitors will view a mix of European and guerrilla
warfare. It will be surprising and fun for everyone.
Totten was raised in Columbus, Ind., and now lives in Madison. In addition
to stitching his own period clothing and tents, he sews clothes for
other re-enactors as well. He often dresses as a private and as the
What he likes best about re-enacting is the fact that it changes
a lot from event to event, he said. He enjoys the camaraderie
experienced at some events, and the interaction with spectators. Its
interesting to look at the guy standing next to you and realize what
a soldier must have felt and seen.
Totten participates in re-enactments not just for the smoke and
fire. To him, its about more than firing a gun or discharging
a loud cannon. It has to do with honoring individuals from the past
who have fought for this country and freedom for all.
Totten is already planning for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War
next year. There will be many national events taking place, he said.
He has considered getting into the 1812 time-period, but for right now
is happy to recreate the years 1861-1865.
For more information about Civil
War Days at Preston Plantation, contact the Venards at (502) 268-5858.
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