SIDNEY — The Jeff Davis Rifles, a group of Confederate re-enactors, recently voted to attend Sidney, Ohio’s Civil War Living History Weekend. The event is scheduled to be held at Sidney’s 220 acre Tawawa Park Sept. 17-18, 2016.
The organizing committee has been working closely with groups of reenactors representing both Union and Confederate troops in an effort to solicit their involvement in Sidney’s inaugural event. It was recently announced that the Army of the Ohio, a Union reenacting unit, and the Independent Guard, a Confederate reenacting group, would also be attending the event.
The Jeff Davis Rifles has been known for the past quarter century as “The Medich Battalion.” The name change was announced at the unit’s annual meeting in November in Indianapolis and was due to the retirement of the battalion’s commander, Col. Nicholas A. Medich.
The new name, “The Jefferson Davis Rifles,” is actually the name the battalion fought under before it was reorganized by Medich. The Jefferson Davis Rifles are now commanded by Lt. Col. Greg VanWey, who served as second-in-command to Medich. His election also took place at the annual meeting.
The Jefferson Davis Rifles include the 4th Texas, Company E; the 4th Virginia, Company I; the 5th Kentucky, Company C; the 5th Texas, Company A; the 5th Texas, Company E; the 8th Arkansas, Company K; the 9th Kentucky, Company C; the 11th Mississippi, Company G; and, the 12th South Carolina, Company I. At this time, it is unclear how many of the units will travel to Sidney for the event.
The Jeff Davis Rifles consist of Confederate units based out of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and as far away as Missouri. The membership have voted this as a “staff event”, meaning that several of the organizations and staff will be in attendance.
The Jefferson Davis Rifles’ motto, “Semper invicta, semper anticus” (Always invincible, always forward) is emblazoned on the battalion’s flag. The battalion has fought at a number of major national reenactments.
One of the goals of the Jeff Davis Rifles is to honor the memory of Confederate Civil War Soldiers and their stories. This is accomplished through accurate portrayals of the soldiers at reenactments and living history events.
The group also participates in numerous local events and living histories near the home areas of member units. Additionally, many units participate in talks and demonstrations for schools, civic groups and historical societies that bring the Civil War Soldier to life.
The Jeff Davis Rifles is also dedicated to portraying a working military organization on the field. By doing so, they help preserve an important part of America’s history.
Sidney, Ohio’s Civil War Living History Planning Committee includes Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst, Shelby County Historical Society Executive Director Tilda Philpot, Sidney native now Tipp City resident and Union re-enactor Doug Slagel, Confederate reenactor J.R. Sharp, whose Company B of the 1st Tennessee Infantry camped at Brookside last spring, and Elizabeth Topping, who has been reenacting as a period civilian for 22 years. The committee has been working to organize the Sidney event for more than nine months. The event continues to generate excitement in reenacting circles.
“When we began planning the event,” Barhorst said, “we thought that we would draw about a hundred re-enactors the first year. It is now clear that we will have more than twice that number of participants.”
“As a former history teacher, the event is one that I have long wanted to see Sidney host,” Barhorst said, “and I am delighted with the response. As an elected official who wants to find unique ways to promote tourism, I am doubly excited about what this event can mean to the community in coming years.”
Although no Civil War battles were fought anywhere near Sidney, a considerable number of local men served in the Union Army during the Civil War. In fact, the 1860 Census records that Shelby County had a population of 17,493. Of that number 8960 were male, and a staggering 14 percent of them served in the Army during the war. Of those, 25.58 percent (326) died in the service of their country.