Do you remember when we last saw Captain Lyon disguised as a widow at the Camp Jackson affair? Well, someone in the army must have thought he did a good job preventing secessionist forces from capturing the St. Louis Arsenal because he's been promoted to General. On the other hand, several civilians including a baby were killed and that prompted the Missouri General Assembly to create a State Guard to protect Missouri from outside forces (either North or South) Now three months later and clear on the other side of the state Lyon's troops are standing opposed to Missouri troops again. Soldiers from Iowa and Kansas have joined with Lyon, troops from Arkansas (an officially Confederate state) have joined with the Missouri Guard all near the city of Springfield.
We left the house early Saturday morning to make the trip down to the 150th anniversary reenactment, but it wasn't early enough. When we first heard the rumble of cannon-fire for the morning's battle we were still in a miles-long line waiting to park. This had been advertised as a national event so there were 2500 reenactors and many times that number of Civil War buffs (or perhaps other homeschoolers on a field trip). Then we had to wait for a shuttle bus to take us to the battlefield. We managed to arrive about five minutes before the reenactors were "resurrected." There was still plenty to see and do and another battle was scheduled for the evening.
Okay, these guys obviously aren't reenactors. They did have a popular display for little boys (daddies might have wanted to get behind the gun too, but I only saw kids in line). It was a real test of strength to see if they could pull down the handle and pull it back to cock the gun. Older and larger boys also tried on ALL the field gear and tried to run a lap around the hummer. It wasn't even a scorcher that day but they could all see what a miserably hot and heavy load these soldiers bear to protect us. Someone yelled "They could've used you boys in the fight this morning." I don't know which side he wanted them to fight on. The soldier quipped back "They didn't give us any bullets." The first man pointed out that the reenactors didn't have real bullets either so it still would have been a fair fight.
Another not specifically Civil War attraction was an old fashioned baseball game. The St. Louis Brown Stockings took on the Irish Brigade according to the 1860 rules of the game. First we had to learn a whole new terminology: strikers instead of batters, hands instead of outs, ace instead of run. And there were plenty of other differences. A player could be called out if the ball is caught on the first bounce (this may have something to do with the players not wearing gloves, I'm not sure I'd want to catch any of those line drives with my bare hands either). There was an occasional horse trotting through the outfield and once the game had to be halted while everyone searched for the ball in the tall grass around first base(see the picture) . I doubt any of those millionaires in the professional leagues would have put up with the conditions, but we thought is was fun to watch. Schnickelfritz even helped hang the numbers on the portable scoreboard.
The reenactment did not take place on the actual battlefield which is now part of the national parks system. We decided to head over to the real site during the heat of the day (the visitor's center had air conditioning). We watched a 30 minute movie about the historical significance of the battle and Fritz was enthralled with the miniture map that lit up to show troop movements. Then we got in our car for a 5 mile tour around the battlefield. There is corn growing in the same location soldiers fought. There is still an old cabin where children hid in the root cellar to protect themselves from flying bullets. I think the map and driving tour helped us better understand the battle we were about to see.
Speaking of battle, it was time to get back and reserve our seats. As you can see we were VERY close to the cannons. Fritz wore his daddy's chainsaw hearing protection. I had a pair of Indy 500 earplugs. The sound was reduced but we still felt the full force of the concussion (it made my straw hat wiggle). These men represented the Missouri Guard and you can see one of them is just wearing his farm clothes and carrying a scythe. It didn't matter that they didn't have guns, there would soon be plenty of guns available after the battle. The lack of standard uniforms this early in the war also played an important role in the battle. Col. Sigel of the Union forces mistook the approaching troops from Louisiana (which would be the enemy) for reinforcements from Iowa (his allies) because they both wore gray. This allowed the Louisiana troops to get within 40 yards of Col. Sigel before the first shot was fired and by then the Union troops panicked and scattered.
For the first half hour of the battle everyone seemed to be cheating--that is to say no one fell dead or wounded. I suppose they didn't want to miss out on all the fun. Later you could see bodies in the field. Now that I'm looking at close ups of my photos I still see a lot of cheating/peaking going on. Occasionally someone would want his moment in the sun and would come to where the crowd was sitting for his death scene.
Unfortunately, the evening ended on a sour note for us. Unlike the morning battle and contrary to the instructions we had during our wait for the battle to begin, the bridge over Wilson's creek was closed and guarded by police officers. We were captives on the field until the battle was over. One lady with a migraine and many small children overwhelmed by the noise and smoke could not escape. And it wasn't much later that we realized we were on one side of the creek and all the port-o-johns were on the other. Children were having to try and hold it or go in the woods (scarier than you might think with cannons and rifles shooting around you, even if they were blanks). I hope future event planners will take this fact into consideration.
Well, I suppose things could have been worse. Remember Gen. Lyon from the beginning of this post? He died in the battle and became the first Union General of the Civil War to do so.