Civil War Re-enactment Draws
A Crowd to Scottsburg

Annual Festival Educates,
Fascinates Spectators, Participants

By Don Ward

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 nearby.

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 Morgan’s 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 can begin.
“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 year’s 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 Louisiana’s 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 I’ve 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. It’s 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. “It’s a lot more fun to do it than to come out here and watch.”
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 in 1994.”
Ron Orange works as a sales manager for Schwann’s 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, Orange’s 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, Orange’s 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.
“I’ve already been offered $18,000 for it,” said Rowland, who works for the New Richmond, Ohio, school corp.
Rowland’s 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 I’ve 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. “There’s 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 doesn’t look very realistic.”

Back to August 2000 Articles.



Copyright 1999-2015, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Kentucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta