SIDNEY — The spirits of Union and Confederate soldiers drifted over Tawawa Park Saturday and Sunday as the battles of the Civil War were once again fought.
More than 200 re-enactors brought their love of American history to the hilly area during Sidney’s Civil War Living History Weekend. Intermediate storms on Saturday didn’t stop area residents from watching the battles that were fought throughout the day.
“The rain dampened down some of the crowds on Saturday,” said Tilda Phlipot, Shelby County Historical Society director. “But a half hour before every battle, the buses were full and pulling into the lot.
“People stood holding their umbrellas watching the glare of guns going off,” she said.
Phlipot estimates 2,000 people attended Saturday’s event, while a total for Sunday wasn’t available at press time.
More than 300 people attended Saturday morning’s pancake breakfast sponsored by the Sidney Rotary.
“There was standing room only for Mass Sunday morning,” said Phlipot. “The Protestant service was also well attended.”
The weekend, she said, also gave students the opportunity to do school projects about the Civil War.
“There was one student from Tippecanoe doing a project,” said Phlipot.
Conferate soldier Kevin Skaggs, of Charleston, West Virginia, was found in his camp Sunday afternoon, waiting for the battle to begin. He was been involved with re-enactments for 21 years.
“I grew up in a town that was deep with Civil War history,” said Skaggs. “I played Army in actual Civil War trenches.”
A history buff, Skaggs said he attends a dozen re-enactments a year.
“I’ve attended ones in Gettysburg,” said Skaggs. “I also have several events picked for me to attend.”
He is a member of both a local re-enactors unit in West Virginia and also the national organization. He has a field grade rank with the national organization.
“With them, I’ve been elected to be one of their leaders at re-enactments,” said Skaggs.
Skaggs said it was his choice to become a member of the Union Army.
“I’m a staunch West Virginian and they fought for the Union,” said Skaggs. “But all of my family fought in the Confederate Army.”
He is a member of the 22nd Virginia Infantry, which during the Civil War, was led by the original George Patton.
Skaggs said he’s very impressed with Tawawa Park.
“It’s a beautiful place and it’s a gorgeous location,” said Skaggs. “Everyone has been extremely hospitable.
“The town of Sidney has done a good job for a first time event,” he said. “I’m really glad I came.”
Skaggs said the best part of the weekend is the camaraderie that can be found in the camps and seeing friends from all over the county.
“I know a couple of people here,” said Skaggs. “There are some local people who are friends of mine.”
Skaggs said he enjoys talking to those attending the events.
“I’d like to thank you for all your hospitality,” said Skaggs. “The spectator turnout, even with the rain, was impressive. I was also asked some good questions from the spectators. And that is always appreciated.”
Crossing over Ross Bridge into Confederate territory, the spectators were greeted by “surgeon” Doug Gill, of Newark, Ohio. He has been involved with re-enactments for 30-plus years.
As the crowd came and went, Gill explained the different tools the surgeons used during the Civil War.
“I was located 1 to 2 miles behind the battle line,” said Gill. “I was the head surgeon and had two assistant surgeons and a steward. That was based on each 1,000 men in the unit.
“I would send the assistant surgeon and stewards to the battle line,” he said.
They would begin treatment on the wounded soldiers until they could be brought back to the medical tent where the surgeon was located.
“We had good pain medicine for the soldiers,” said Gill. “They were given laudanum. We saw the first drug addiction during the Civil War. Once they were back home, they would go through ‘the horrors’ of withdrawal.”
Debbie and Dave Julian, of Greenwood, Indiana, enjoy their weekends at re-enactments. Dave has been involved with re-enactments since 1979, and his wife since 2006.
“The city of Franklin had an old house tour and I went on it,” said Dave of how he got interested in re-enactments. “They were firing off a big cannon outside the house. I went out and found the group and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
“I went to my first one, and I was hooked,” said Debbie.
When Dave first started, he was a Confederate soldier. After attending several re-enactments, he purchased a Union uniform and would then be whichever soldier was needed for the weekend.
“I used to carry the uniforms for both sides with me when I went to events,” said Dave. “Today, everybody has decided to do one side or the other.”
And his choice, is the Confederate Army.
“I love camping and you get to fire a gun,” said Dave of why he likes the re-enactments. “You also get to cook outdoors. The rain can be a pain. But no matter what happens, you know you can survive. If any emergency happens (in real life), you know you can survive.”
As Dave left to join his unit before the battle began, his wife prepared to stay at the campsite, waiting for him to return.
“This is the closest thing to a time machine,” said Debbie. “You’re close to nature and in surroundings like this, it’s very nice.
“This is a fun hobby for couples,” she said. “As the men go off to battle, we have groups over for tea or go shopping. It’s very relaxing. There’s no computers to bother you. I wish I’d found this hobby when my kids were young.”
Though she enjoys the outdoor life, Debbie also brings the comfort of home with her. Part of their van-ful of tools and equipment that comes to a re-enactment is a full-sized bed.
“If I’m going to do this, I’m going to be comfortable,” she laughed.
Phlipot and Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst were on the planning committee for the weekend. Barhorst was pleased with the attendance for the event, even though he was disappointed by Saturday’s rain.
“I’ve been in the education tent most of the weekend,” said Barhorst. “The presenters were very good. The Johnny Clem program had more than 100 people in attendance. The Harriet Beecher Stow program also had around 100 people.”
The remainder of the programs, he said, had more than 80 people attending each one.
“A number of students have been in for the programs,” said Barhorst.
Barhorst said he has received many positive comments from local citizens and the re-enactors about the weekend.
“The people are happy that we have done this event,” said Barhorst. “We have re-enactors here from as far away as South Carolina and New York. They’ve all said they like our park.”
Some of the re-enactors had told Barhorst they weren’t sure what to expect.
“They had been promised hills and creeks at other events and they didn’t get it. They had to see it (Tawawa Park) to believe it,” said Barhorst.
Another Civil War re-enactment is tentatively being planned for 2018.
The committee will be meeting in the near future to discuss this year’s event.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.
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