SIDNEY — The schedule of presenters for Sidney, Ohio’s Civil War Living History Weekend has nearly been finalized, Planning Committee Chair Mike Barhorst announced. The event, scheduled for Sept. 15-16, will include a single-day presentation by Van Wert resident David Walker. Walker will provide a first-person impression on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 15) of Jefferson Davis.
Walker, a retired elementary teacher, has been providing Jefferson Davis impressions for more than a decade. Walker has made appearances at Civil War reenactments, Civil War round tables, Civil War balls, Civil War fashion shows, and a host of other events. His presentation will cover events leading up to the war and the war itself.
Walker has immersed himself in American history since reading his first book about Abraham Lincoln when he was in the third grade. Walker attended school in Van Wert, where he graduated from high school.
He subsequently attended Wright State University (WSU), obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Education. He later earned a Master of Arts in history from WSU. Although he has retired as a classroom teacher, he continues to substitute teach.
Walker began reenacting in 1987, initially as a soldier. Some years later, noted Lincoln reenactor Fred Priebe encouraged Walker to consider portraying Davis so that audiences could get a more balanced view of the war.
Walker began depicting Davis and soon was in demand. He has appeared throughout Ohio, and performed in Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and New Mexico.
For the last eight years Walker has been the official Jefferson Davis at many national Civil War reenactments. For several years, he has joined a fellow reenactor protraying General Robert E. Lee in leading Confederate soldiers and civilians in the Remembrance Day parade held in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania each November.
“This year I’ve been invited to Vicksburg, Mississippi,” Walker noted. “I’ll be at the Old Court House Museum over July 4th weekend for the 155th anniversary of the city’s surrender.”
“Vicksburg’s surrender was a bitter pill for the Confederacy,” Walker continued. “For more than 70 years, Independence Day wasn’t celebrated in Vicksburg. There were no fireworks, no picnics, no days off work. The post office didn’t even close on the Fourth of July in Vicksburg. That was in deference to the fact that July 4 was the day Confederate General John Pemberton surrendered the city to Union General U.S. Grant following a siege of more than 40 days.”
“I’m on the road twelve months of the year,” Walker said, “and I love it! I hope to talk about Jefferson Davis’ life from his youth in Kentucky until his release from prison at Fort Monroe, Virginia in 1867 following the Civil War.
Walker is a member of Lee’s Lieutenants, Company H, 21st Michigan Volunteer Infantry and the 30th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. He is also a member of Civil War Historical Impressions, a group dedicated to teaching America’s history through first person impressions, living history demonstrations, and battlefield reenactments.
Jefferson Davis was an American politician who served as the only president of the Confederacy. A member of the Democratic Party who represented Mississippi in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives prior to the Civil War, he was also served as Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce.
“Walker came highly recommended,” Barhorst said in making the announcement. “We had a great deal of feedback following our 2016 event that we needed to provide speakers who could provide the other ‘side’ of the war. I think Walker can provide that perspective.”
“I have found it amazing that after just our inaugural event, Sidney’s Civil War Living History Weekend has become so well-known in the reenacting community as a ‘class event’. As a result, we’ve had little difficulty attracting educational speakers for this year’s program,” Barhorst continued.
“I think a lot of credit for our success is owed to the Shelby County Historical Society and the work of their many volunteers,” Barhorst said. “As co-sponsors of the weekend, they brought the expertise in managing large events to the table and deserve much of the credit for the success of the weekend.“
In addition to Barhorst, the planning committee includes Sidney native and reenactor Doug Slagel, Sidney Parks and Recreation Director Duane Gaier, re-enactors Chad Chocran and J.R. Sharp, and Shelby County Historical Society President Tilda Phlipot.