Alabama: Re-enactors Set to Reprise Cedar Bluff Raid

ROME — Cannons will blast, cavalry will charge and infantry men will storm the fields in Cedar Bluff, Ala. this May — when Civil War re-enactors come together to portray Union Col. Abel Streight’s 1863 raid against the Confederate forces of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans Sesquicentennial Commission met at Rome City Hall on Sunday to hash out plans for the event, which celebrates the 150th year since the raid. The event will take place May 3-5.

Kenneth Sumner, a major general of the Alabama Division of the SCV, said the event will be both entertaining and an educational tool that will make history come alive, especially for young spectators.

“It puts them face-to-face with history instead of the TV,” said Sumner.

The re-enactment in Cedar Bluff will likely take place on a farm near the original site of Streight’s surrender to the Confederacy, which features an ideal area for spectators to view the battles from a ridge. Further details will be released closer to the event.

More than 400 re-enactors are expected for the battles. The participants’ weaponry and outfits will be historically accurate from their caps to their boots, according to Benny Terry, adjutant for SCV Camp 469 in Rome.

“Reenactors are very serious people,” said Terry. “If you don’t have everything perfect, they won’t let you play.”

The first day of the event, a Friday, will serve as a “living history” day where school children will be invited to visit the camps and equipment. On Saturday and Sunday, full-scale battles will take place at 2 p.m. with Streight’s men winning the first day and the historically-accurate Forrest’s company triumphing the second.

The economic significance of Rome was enormous during the war. According to Terry, Streight was dispatched to destroy key parts of the Western and Atlantic Railroad that supplied the Confederate Army of Tennessee and was headed for Rome.

“Rome was a very important hub for rail and boat traffic,” said Terry. “You could go from here all the way to the Mississippi.”

Forrest’s army was outnumbered but, by parading his force back and forth in front of the Union troops, he convinced Streight he had the superior force. Streight surrendered but after learning about the ruse played on him, he demanded his arms back for a rematch. Forrest declined and marched the Union men to the stockades in Rome.

Admission to the re-enactment is $5 for ages 13 and older. Children younger than 12 are free. For families, the fee will be capped at $20.

-Brittany Hannah, Rome News-Tribune


Florida: Blue, Gray Unite for “Civil” War

No librarian will try to “shush” this.Libraries are known for the quiet absorption of knowledge. But the quiet will be shattered, by cannon fire no less, when Civil War re-enactors converge at Collier’s South Regional Library on Jan. 12-13 to bring to life two little-known battles from the War Between the States.

Civil war reenactors learn how to load their rifles on command before they portrayed the Raid on Gopher Ridge at the Immokalee Pioneer Museum at Roberts Ranch on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008. More than 30 reenactors, some participating for the first time, performed an hour long battle between the Union and the Confederacy which originally happened in 1865 in Southwest Florida.

A contingent of men, plus their womenfolk, will recreate the Battle of Gopher Ridge, the only Civil War action that took place in what would later become Collier County, and the Battle of Fort Myers, in the fields and woods surrounding the library facility on Lely Cultural Parkway. The actors will camp out with their period costumes and regalia, offering a “living history” look at the life of soldiers from 150 years ago.

“The kids have so many questions,” said Lou Sickles, who is in charge of mustering the troop of Union and Confederate soldiers. “I’ve never met a child who didn’t love to see the guns go off.”

In addition to the field artillery, which will be fired every two hours, there will be hourly firing demonstrations of the soldiers’ muskets and rifles, along with the cumbersome reloading process.

Inside the library, which will offer restroom facilities for the public, actual Civil War-era artifacts, including guns, razors, spectacles, clothing, prints and daguerreotypes will be displayed.

The Civil War Days event, part of the Viva Florida 500 celebration of five centuries of European settlement in the Sunshine State, will begin on the preceding Thursday, Jan. 10, and Friday, Jan. 11, with field trips for student groups, and then open to the public over the weekend. There is no admission charge, although there will be a chance to spend some “Yankee dollars” at the stores of sutlers, itinerant vendors of that time..

Three of these sutlers, with their recreated traveling general stores, are expected, with a host of period gear including uniforms, insignia, parts for breech-loading muskets, cookware and lanterns. Just as in the actual armies, the sutlers’ tents are where many of the re-enactors purchase items to complete their gear or replace worn or broken equipment. Modern drinks and refreshments will be available to spectators.

If war is the art of killing, each side also made valiant efforts to keep their own wounded soldiers alive. The re-enactment will in aftermath of the fighting. Sickles will take the part of an army surgeon, in a recreated field hospital, and give demonstrations of state-of-the-art military medicine circa 1863.

Like many of the re-enactors, Sickles has been known to switch sides. He comes to these events ready to portray a major in the Union medical corps, or a Confederate lieutenant or sergeant major. For other period get-togethers, he can be a British redcoat or a Seminole War musician.

Putting together a squad of soldiers to recreate a battle, you need to be versatile, said re-enactor Tom Geffert of Punta Gorda, who takes the part of a rebel cannoneer.

“If the northern side is short of people, we have both uniforms. Someone will say, ‘You want to galvanize?’ and you put the blue uniform on. You can’t have a battle with 60 people on one side and three on the other.”

At the encampment, said Geffert, the participants make a point of putting anything modern out of sight, often covered with burlap, so visitors won’t look into the tent and see a Confederate soldier checking his email on his MacBook.

“We love to talk to the people, and answer the kids’ questions,” he said. “We don’t get paid — we’re doing this because we love doing it.”

His wife, Matilda, also attends in period dress, and along with other women shares demonstrations and talks about what life was like on the home front for women at the time, including butter churning, domestic chores and cooking.

Sickles said all the women attending portray wives or nurses, not “camp followers” of questionable moral character.

“We’d have to drum them out of camp,” he joked, noting that the local Confederate militiamen were fighting close at home, under the watchful eyes of their ladies.

If you were not aware of the Battle of Gopher Ridge or the Battle of Fort Myers, you’re not alone. “Battle” might be stretching it a little for what were really skirmishes with maybe 100 to 200 soldiers involved at Gopher Ridge, and 500 to 600 at Fort Myers.

Both engagements were part of the Union forces’ efforts to cut off the supply of Florida beef to the Confederate forces further north. The Battle of Gopher Ridge took place at Roberts Ranch near Immokalee, and resulted in a rebel victory. The Battle of Fort Myers, with black soldiers from the 2nd United States Colored Troops firing the cannon, resulted in a Union victory when the rebel forces failed to dislodge the northern garrison from the fort. In that battle, the casualties were one dead and three wounded on the Union side, and three wounded in the Confederate “cow cavalry,” mostly made up of drovers.

The Confederate forces included a Hendry, ancestor of former Collier County Sheriff Doug Hendry. One re-enactor, Travis Goff of Everglades City, is a direct descendant from a participant in the actual fighting.

Gopher Ridge is being fought Saturday, Jan. 12 during the afternoon, and the Battle of Fort Myers, including a depiction of the ambush at Billy Bowlegs Creek, takes place Sunday, Jan. 13 in the afternoon. At least a recreated battle is a little easier to schedule and prepare for than an actual battle.

“This is a great learning experience,” said Patti DeGroot of the Collier County Public Library, who has coordinated the Civil War Days re-enactment. “It’s not just reading or hearing about history, but the chance to see it, and live in it.”

-Lance Shearer,

Mississippi: Tippah Records Survived Civil War

RIPLEY – Tippah County Courthouse will celebrate its 175th birthday soon.

A new Tippah County Courthouse was built in 1870 to replace the courthouse that was burned by Union troops during the Civil War. (Thomas Wells)

Since its organization in February 1836, the official historic structures have both witnessed and been a vital part of the legal activities, trade day ventures, war, parades, festivals, political campaigns, memorials, life and death, a legal execution and daily duties of the residents and visitors of Tippah County.

In 1836, the Mississippi Legislature created a number of counties, including Tippah, to place all the final Chickasaw Cession under an organized government.

A log structure was built on the northeast corner of the Square in Ripley and served as the official courthouse until 1838 when a larger more substantial building was constructed.

The life of the Tippah County Courthouse is similar to others in North Mississippi.

It houses the heart of county government.

It is in the county courthouse where people register to vote, where marriage licenses are sold, where the Tippah County Board of Supervisors once held meetings pertaining to county activities until supervisors relocated to the present Chancery Court building, where taxes are paid and where land transactions take place.

The land for the construction of the second courthouse was originally laid out in blocks on which the present courthouse stands today in the center of the square. It was built and stood until July 8, 1862, when federal troops burned it to the ground – not unlike others in the area.

History records that an early Ripley resident, W.W. Robinson, and a county official had learned that the federal troops were on the move and soon would be in the Ripley area. The two concerned men packed all the legal documents, deeds, papers and other materials in a large wooden box, hauled them in a wagon to the eastern part of the county and buried them in an old cotton house.

After the war, the papers were recovered and returned to Ripley, making Tippah one of the few counties in north Mississippi in which many of the records from 1836 still exist.

For several years there was no official courthouse. During this period the Baptist and the Presbyterian churches were used.

Later, plans were readied and the brick courthouse of 1870 was completed.

Porticos on the east and west ends were added, and much of the earlier materials were incorporated in the structure.

In 1928, the Board of Supervisors laid plans for a third Tippah County Courthouse on the same foundation and the present building stands today.

In the 1980s considerable renovations, including a new roof, were done. Later projects included landscaped areas, new and safer wiring, additional heating and cooling systems, and an elevator for seniors and handicapped residents.

Tippah County citizens and visitors have access to their heritage through records, books, historical organizations, and preservation. Early photographs, newspaper articles, and personal and family histories offer information that plays an important role in documenting cultural and legal activities of the past.

-Hank Wiesner, Southern Sentinel


North Carolina: Renowned Historian to Address Brunswick Civil War Round Table

Few historians have captured the drama, excitement and tragedy of the War Between the States quite like Ed Bearss.

His exceptional knowledge of every phase of the war and his incomparable presentation style has earned him the prestigious title of “National Treasure” among his historian peers, according to a press release from the Brunswick Civil War Round Table.

Ed Bearss

Audiences around the country and around the world are simply amazed at the endless facts, figures, events and dates that he has memorized and shares during every speaking engagement, the release states.

This is what his audience has in store when he joins the Round Table as a special guest for the third time on Wednesday, Jan. 9.

The meeting will be held at the St. James Community Center across from the main gate on N.C. 211. Registration begins early at 6 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to carpool and arrive early for the best seating.

The guest admission fee for this meeting is $10, which can be applied toward the $25 annual membership dues.

This year’s presentation is entitled, “The Emergence of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant: The Battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.”  

The Battle of Fort Henry was fought on Feb. 6, 1862, in western Tennessee, and was the first important victory for the Union and Grant in the Western Theater, according to the Round Table press release.

The Battle of Fort Donelson was fought a few days later, from Feb. 11-16, 1862. That Union victory opened the Cumberland River as an avenue for the invasion of the South. The success elevated Grant from an obscure and largely unproven leader to the rank of major general, and earned him the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant by using his first two initials, according to the press release.

Bearss is the recipient of numerous awards in the field of history and preservation. He is a prolific writer, author of numerous books and has provided television commentary on the A&E Network, the History Channel, the TLC Channel and Ken Burns’ PBS series on “The Civil War.”

For more information about the Brunswick Civil War Round Table or the meeting, contact president Wally Rueckel at (910) 253-7382,


South Carolina: Re-enactors Study Figures they Portray

David Chaltas and Danny Bruckner have been portraying generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson respectively for 12 years and have been involved in re-enactments much longer. According to Aiken County Historical Museum director Elliott Levy, the two are asked for all over the country for their portrayal of the two generals.

Chaltas and Bruckner came to Aiken for both the prayer breakfast that the Sons of Confederate Veterans held Saturday morning, as well as walking through downtown on Laurens Street greeting people and taking pictures. They ended the day with a dinner to celebrate the generals’ birthdays, which were Jan. 19, 1807, for Lee and Jan. 21, 1824, for Jackson.

Commander Tom Plowden gives a toast to Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson at the dinner Saturday night portrayed by David Chaltas and Danny Buckner. Staff photo by Melanie Herbold

According to Levy, dressing up as these generals isn’t just simply about putting on the uniforms.

“They study the figures,” Levy said. “They are true historians. People are constantly trying to prove them wrong in what they say, and they make sure that doesn’t happen. … They become real life characters – people that are no longer just a place in a book.”

For Chaltas, when he puts on that uniform, he becomes Lee, according to Levy.

“He is in charge of representing him. The Lee family thanks him. He gives a true representation that the family endorses,” Levy said.

Chaltas, who is from Kentucky, said that he was honored to be in Aiken County.

“The reception was so humbling,” Chaltas said. “We walked through downtown, and many people wanted to take pictures with us. I am thrilled to be here. I could spend months here. … The good Lord has blessed me.”

Chaltas is a history teacher, which is one of the reasons why he is so passionate about history.

“It’s a passion for me,” he said. “I go into schools and teach people. We want to portray our histories. We learn from our past mistakes so we don’t repeat them again.”

The reason for the re-enactments in part is to learn where we come from.

“The nation wouldn’t know who we are until we know who our ancestors are,” Chaltas said. “In turning this nation around, these heroes need to be recognized. God created the veterans and the veterans gave us this freedom.”

This dinner not only was to celebrate the generals’ birthdays but also to bring awareness for the 150th anniversary of the War between the States and the upcoming Battle of Aiken, according to Levy.

“This is a time-honored tradition that the Sons of Confederate Veterans do every year,” said Wayne Jones, who portrayed Gen. Jeb Stuart. “I hope this format will spread throughout the state with the program – everything is done based on historical fact. Ultimately, I hope this will bring awareness, teach and educate people as well as fellowship and reunion.”

Aiken County had an important role in the war. The materials made at the paper mill in Graniteville went toward helping with the uniforms, newspapers and currency.

“The idea that it happened here … to not tell that history would be missing an important part,” Levy said. “There were many passionate people involved because of what they believed in and that story shouldn’t be pushed away, but told.”

Jones worked with Ken Temples to pull the dinner and the prayer breakfast together. The prayer breakfast was started eight years and has spread throughout the state.

“This is a chance for me to honor my ancestors,” Jones said. “It gives me the opportunity to pay tribute to them for what they did for us. If you don’t understand where you came from, you won’t know where you’re going.”

Chaplain Alan Farley, a missionary from Virginia, was the guest speaker for the night and was there to talk about Lee and Jackson and their beliefs.

He said Lee and Jackson were great military leaders and are mentioned alongside Napoleon, Frederick the Great, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Hannibal. Although they were all great military leaders, Farley said that having a great military reputation doesn’t make for a moral reputation.

“This was not the case for Lee and Jackson. They exemplified many Christian characteristics. They were both Christians, and their devotion to their nation was only surpassed by their devotion to Jesus Christ,” Farley said.

He mentioned a quote from Lee that summed up his faith.

“‘I’m nothing but a poor sinner trusting in God for salvation.’ This moved him in everything he did and said. He tirelessly promoted the gospel and was always found praying before battle,” Farley said.

Jackson also displayed his devotion to his Christian faith.

“He prayed for a minimum of three hours to know what to do in the upcoming battle,” Farley said. “He funded the first Sunday School for blacks and sent back offerings to the Sunday school while he was off fighting in battles. Jackson’s heart’s desire was to be a missionary in Africa.”

He closed his speech saying that, “we should admire and emulate their Christian character.”


Virginia: State’s Civil War Programs “National Model”

The 150th anniversary of Fort Sumter, the Confederate attack that ignited the Civil War, seems just like yesterday.

But the war’s sesquicentennial is already half over, a point headlined by a report Friday by a Virginia panel.

Re-enactors and spectators fill Sophia Street to participate in and watch ‘Fire on the Rappahannock,’ one of dozens of December events that commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. (ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

So far, the statewide commemoration of the nation’s deadliest conflict has been a hit, strongly boosting visitation to Virginia and local sites from history-minded people, the state Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission reported to Gov. Bob McDonnell and the General Assembly.

“By any measure, it is clear that partners throughout the commonwealth have recognized and maximized the opportunities for education and preservation, and increased travel and tourism presented by the anniversary,” House Speaker Bill Howell, R–Stafford, said of the findings in the “Civil War Sesquicentennial in Virginia: Impact at the Halfway Mark” report.

Howell chairs the commission, which was the first in the nation to plan 150th anniversary events and programs, starting its work in 2006. Sen. Charles J. Colgan Sr., D–Manassas, is vice chair.

“On all fronts, the sesquicentennial in Virginia can be counted as a success,” the commission reported. “As a recent Richmond Times–Dispatch article noted, ‘the Civil War 150th has captured minds as well as tourists.’ ”

The commonwealth stands as “a national model” for sesquicentennial programs that analyze the war from multiple perspectives and encourage widespread participation in its local, state and national observances, the panel said. Events and programs eye the Civil War in Virginia from many viewpoints—battlefront and home front, soldier and civilian, free and enslaved.

Virginia is the only state with major anniversaries in every year of the 2011–2015 sesquicentennial, with sites and commemorative events across its length and breadth, the report notes.

The state’s focus on the occasion is natural, given that more than 122 Civil War battles were fought on its soil, three times more than any other state.

The panel noted that Virginia has strong support from McDonnell and his administration, an inclusive approach and comprehensive initiatives and partnerships.

Absent a federal commission to plan the sesquicentennial, Virginia “leads the nation,” it reported.

Civil War tourism in Virginia is strong and growing, the commission reported.

On, Civil War-related views have increased 96 percent since 2011. Views of information about the national battlefield parks that interpret Virginia’s Civil War sites are up 181 percent, the panel said.

More than 100,000 people have downloaded the seven “battle apps” the Civil War Trust, with money from the state Department of Transportation, has created for smartphones and tablets. Three new apps are expected this year.

Last month, dozens of programs marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg drew nearly 10,000 participants, the report said.

In Spotsylvania County, battle re-enactments in 2012 and 2011 lured more than 13,000 visitors.

Last but not least, the state has awarded more than $8 million in matching grants to save battlefield land through the Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund. The effort has saved 4,700 acres valued at more than $30 million, a return on investment of nearly 4-to-1, the commission reported.

Commission summary:
Full report: