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Five months after the Albany reenactment, hear the details

Union and Confederate re-enactors made camp on Ray County Fairgrounds Oct. 25-26 of last year for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Albany, which took place just north of Orrick. (Linda Emley photo)

Union and Confederate re-enactors made camp on Ray County Fairgrounds Oct. 25-26 of last year for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Albany, which took place just north of Orrick. (Linda Emley photo)

By Linda Emley

On Thursday, April 9, Ray County Historical Society hosts a carry-in dinner at the Eagleton Center. Dinner will start at 6 p.m. and everyone is invited to bring a side dish or dessert and come join us. We will be recapping the Battle of Albany re-enactment and sharing some additional history about the Civil War. April 9 is an important day in history because it marks the 150th anniversary of General Lee’s surrender to General Grant at Appomattox, Va. This event began the end of the Civil War.

It’s been five months and five days since the 150th Battle of Battle of Albany, ending Oct 26, 2014. I’ve had many people ask me why I hadn’t done a follow-up story about it. The main reason is it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and I needed some time to sort it out.

It took us three years to plan this re-enactment and then it was over in four days. It truly was worth all the time and energy we spent, but with any event, things never happen like you plan.

The whole Battle of Albany dream was created by Robbie Maupin. Since he was in charge of the Battle of Lexington, we knew we could trust him to pull it off, but we added so many other things that made this a once-in-a-lifetime event. We took a Civil War reenactment and built it around the death of Capt. William T. Anderson. Without his death, this small Ray County battle would not have mattered and would have been only quietly notede on the pages of our history books, just like the other four Ray County battles.

    I spent 11 months packing a flat Capt. Anderson around the state telling his story. I’m still working on the scrapbook of all the people who had their picture taken with my captain. During the Battle of Albany, we put the captain in the Eagleton Center and everyone could get their picture taken with him. Looking back on that now, I feel kind of funny, because I had been so protective of him for 11 months and when the battle finally rolled around, I just left him there. He was in good hands, because David Blyth and Steve Roush were in charge of my flat man. It all worked out because I had to help take care of more than 140 reenactors and one of them portrayed the flesh-and-blood Capt. Anderson for the whole weekend.

There were so many stories behind the scenes that make this kind of event interesting. The man that played the 24-year-old Anderson was actually too nice to play a “bushwacker,” but he did a wonderful job, anyway. He had to shoot a gun while riding a horse and fall off without getting hurt when he got shot. There was one other minor detail. Codi, the reenactor who played Anderson, got married in April. He had short hair for his wedding, so he only had six months to let his hair grow long enough to look like a man who hadn’t been to a barber in a few years. I’m so glad that Robbie kept the progress of Codi’s hair to himself and didn’t give me something else to worry about.

One of the biggest highlights of our Albany event was the placement of two Missouri state park panels. On that Saturday, we dedicated one at the actual Battle of Albany site near Orrick. This was the most amazing event of the whole weekend, but it was limited to a small group due to the location’s size. Anderson and several of his men were waiting in the wooded area near the site. After we all arrived, they rode by and stopped at a clearing in the woods and tipped their hats before riding off to meet their death. Dan Ball played bagpipes and we had a 21-gun salute with pistols from the Elliott Scouts.

The service ended with Blyth playing his guitar as he sang “Dixie.” The Missouri state panel was dedicated and everyone enjoyed a peaceful few minutes before we headed back to the Ray County Fairgrounds. Once again, I need to share a few behind-the-scene things that happened here. A few minutes before we were to load two buses to Albany, I drove a Gator through the crowd of reenactors and spotted a little girl who looked like she just stepped out of 1864. I got permission from her mother to join us in Albany to play the little Blyth girl that Anderson talked to before he left their house on his last morning. With her and the other civilian reenactors, we all felt like we were actually standing at Albany in 1864. We’ll show the video of the event at our April 9 meeting.

That Saturday morning, while we were at the Battle of Albany site, many other things were happening at the fairgrounds. The museum was open with lots of people touring, while the Richmond Kiwanis Club played games and read stories to children on the front porch. There was also a ladies tea party in the pole barn, where Mrs. Quantrell talked about her son, William Clarke Quantrell. The old-time settlers set up tents to sell their wares, while food vendors shared food with guests. A local group sold food in the Eagleton and some local vendors were there sharing their products. You could also walk around the campsites where reenactors had set up their campfires, cooking their meals.

Since this event took place on an October weekend, we had stocked up lots of firewood to keep our re-enactors warm on those cold fall nights. Little did we know that due to the nice weather, ice turned out to be the lifesaver for everyone. We ordered an ice truck and it was one of the most important things we did. We kept both Gators busy delivering ice to the Blue and the Grey for two days. After being dressed in wool clothing and running across a grassy battlefield, a tall glass of ice water was worth its weight in gold.

The Union troops made their home at the north end of the battlefield, while the Southern boys were at the south end. We did not play favorites. We delivered ice and kept the porta-potties stocked with toilet paper for both sides throughout the whole weekend. We did spend more time taking care of the South, because they were a much bigger group than the Union troops.

I guess it’s time now for a little true confession. That Saturday, a short time before the Battle of Albany was getting under way, I kidnapped Codi, our Capt. Anderson, and took him for a ride in my Gator. It was a hot day and we decided to take him for a little ride to cool him down. I drove us and two other friends up to Ray County Courthouse to show him where he was going to be drug around – after he was shot on the battlefield. Once we arrived in town, we found a van parked in the middle of the roped-off area. I was panic stricken and started to call for back up when Natalie Macey came out of her store and announced that she knew who it belonged to. We were very happy when she came out with the keys and started to move the van. Anderson jumped out of the Gator and moved the wooden road block so that Natalie could drive the van out of the way. I started to take a picture of Anderson, stuck in our modern-day world, but decided to just lock it away in my memory for safe keeping. We drove back to the fairgrounds and through the Union camp. I told them we were going to rewrite history and they were not going to kill my Captain. I worried when they stopped us, but they all wanted to have their picture taken with Anderson. I drove us across the battlefield and we pulled into camp, just in time to hear Robbie say, “I have been looking for the Captain. I should have known you had him.” We did cut it a little close, but the Anderson was ready to ride his horse as soon as he stepped out of the Gator.

We had two battles that Saturday and Sunday. One was a generic battle with lots of cannon fire, sword fighting and guns a-blazing. Then we recreated the 12-minute battle where Captain Anderson and 10 of his men died. No Union soldiers died at the Battle of Albany in 1864. Each day after Anderson was shot, his body was loaded in a wagon and taken to Ray County Courthouse, just like in the original battle. Once there, he was dragged around the square and then taken to the cemetery for burial. This is where our reenactment got complicated. We had to move everyone from the fairgrounds to the courthouse and then to Pioneer Cemetery, which is several blocks north of the courthouse. T

o make it even worse, once we arrived at the cemetery, the story jumped forward to 1908, the year Anderson finally received a funeral.

I’m wrapping this story up until next week, but please come back to hear more tales about the stories behind the Battle of Albany – the good, the bad and the ugly.

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