On Oct. 29, join a Civil War reenactor for photos at the museum

Reenactor Mark Keith with one of his 616 Civil War brides. (Submitted photo)

By Linda Emley

On April 15, 1861, Abe Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 militia to unite to suppress the insurrection of the southern states and the American Civil War began. The Secretary of War sent letters to 24 states advising them how many troops they needed to supply. Missouri Governor Clayborn Jackson replied on April 17 saying, “Not one man will the State of Missouri furnish.” The Union removed Gov. Jackson.
Missouri had two governments with different flags for the Union and the Confederacy, respectively. Missouri was truly a divided state. When the war ended, we had sent around 110,000 troops to the Union and about 40,000 to the Confederacy.
There have been many Civil War reenactments in 2011 since it’s the 150th anniversary of the war’s start. Most of the reenactments are over for the year, but they’ll start up again next spring and we’ll have four more years of them since the war wasn’t over until 1865.
Next Saturday, Oct. 29, a Civil War soldier will walk the halls of Ray County Museum. Mark Keith, better known as “Tic Tac,” is a member of the “Missouri Irish Brigade”. The last time I checked, he had been married to 616 Civil War brides. Weddings are held at many reenactments, and it sounds like Tic Tac has had his share.
This reenactor group has been to many battles this year. They have monthly meetings and plan events several years in advance. I thought it would be fun to share a little bit about the life of these weekend warriors. It’s not an adventure you can take lightly because lots of of time and money are spent preparing for reenactments. It’s rain or shine, and you actually live like a soldier, sleeping out under the stars in a tent. Your commander is in charge and you obey all rules as if you really are a soldier. You provide your own tent, bed roll, rifles, uniforms and all ohter equipment.
Most reenactors spend over $2,000 on equipment. After you do five reenactments, you achieve Veteran status and become an official reenactor. Men, women and children are eligible, but you need to be 16 to carry a gun. But there are lots of jobs for younger ones.  Drummers boys are usually 11 or 12, and water boys and errand boys are needed to carry messages to the officers.
Most events are at least two days long. The first day is usually a mock battle and either side may win. They take turns so sometimes the south wins and sometimes the Northern boys win. The 2nd day is a recreation of the actual battle that was fought on that day in the civil war and the historically correct side wins.
Some reenactors are cavalry men who get to bring their horses to the battlefield. A larger field is needed to stage a battle on horse back and Lexington’s last month showed how exciting it can be when you have a battle raging while riding horseback.
Steve Hitchcock shared a story with me about how hard it is to recreate a civil war battle while riding a horse. One of my favorite actors, Martin Sheen, was in the movie “Gettysburg” and played Robert E. Lee. There was a scene where he was riding alongside another soldier and they were talking. Martin was not the best at riding a horse and it took many “takes” tokeep the two horses side by side as the actors said their lines. After many tries, they had a perfect scene going and then a phone rang in the background. There was a long silence and then one of the soldier broke the silence by saying, “General Lee, it’s General Stuart and he said he’s going to be a little late.” The crowd roared because at the original Gettysburg Battle, General Stuart was a little late arriving.
Stuart was delayed when he ran into trouble at the Battle of Brandy Station on his way to Gettysburg. The delay contributed to the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg. Among the Feds who helped delay him was a young man named George Armstrong Custer.
If you’re looking for something fun to do Saturday, come out to the museum and enjoy a day on the hill. We have a “travel through time” bus tour leaving the museum at 9 a.m. Retired history teacher Hal Middleton will be our guide. Hal has lots of fun stories to tell as you ride around and see the sights of Ray County. There are still some seats available; call 776-2305 for reservations.
For the young at heart, wear a Halloween costume and bring a camera to have a picture taken with Tic Tac, our Civil War soldier.  Can you imagine someone seeing your picture 100 years from now? They’ll wonder why a Civil War soldier, a warrior princess and a pirate were standing on the museum steps.
It’s fun to share history, so always write the names and the date on the back of your photos. Do you know how many are laying around that just say “Little Johnny and Grandma”? We’ll never know who Johnny was and when he posed with his favorite grandma.

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