Students, adults re-enact Civil War history
The Civil War re-enactment groups of the 8th Bridge City Red Raiders and the 3rd Texas Light Artillery combined last week to present a living history lesson at Claiborne West Park.
The 8th Bridge City is a group of eighth grade students from Bridge City Middle School. The group is under the direction of Leslie Lloyd and Bill Dixon of the history faculty at the school.
The 3rd Texas is a re-enactment group of adults with an interest in the history of the American Civil War. The 3rd Texas serves as an advisory group to the 8th Bridge City.
Nine stations were set up at the reenactment in the northwest area of the park. Each station represented some phase of military and civilian life of the period from 1861 to 1865.
The uniforms of the men were the gray of the Confederacy, but the history lessons were generic to the time. Neither group presents the politics or morals of the time as a part of their presentations.
Each station included members of the 3rd Texas who had taken on the assignment of advisor to the 8th Texas for that specific area.
The infantry was under the direction of John Burleigh of the 3rd Texas. Burleigh was in the dress of a Chief Petty Officer of the Confederate Navy. Burleigh used the story that when his “Ram” (war boat built for ramming the enemy) was sunk, he joined the infantry. The story was common during the Civil War.
The 8th Bridge City infantry was under the command of Lt. Bryson Banks.
Nicole Encalade was a sergeant major, but she had to hide her gender. She gave her story as joining the infantry after her husband was captured.
“There were women that joined the military but it was a secret. If they find out that I am a woman they will court martial me and send me home.” Encalade said.
Private Omar Garcia was the drummer for the infantry. It was his responsibility to drum as a means of keeping cadence for the marching. Corporal Luke Hebert had the job of bugler for the infantry. Bugles were one way to pass along orders to the troops. A bugle call could mean anything from “get out of bed”, to “go eat”, to “charge.”
At the cavalry station, Greg Lambert of the 3rd Texas was assisted by Chris Cornell of the 8th Bridge City. Lambert was dressed in a red plaque- front calvary shirt, blue woolen trousers and high black boots. Lambert and Cornell, who was dressed in civilian clothes of the era, explained the weapons and equipment of the cavalry. Unique among the equipment was a pair of saddlebags dating to 1862.
The blacksmith station demonstrated how things were made from a piece of iron heated to glowing red and hammered out on an anvil. Everything had to be made by hand in those days, and the blacksmith was an important part of every town. It was also necessary for each army to have several blacksmiths in the camps to repair or make needed equipment for the troops.
Women were an important part of the military. They were sometimes called “camp followers.” When troops were encamped for a few days to a few months, women had jobs to help the troops.
At the hospital tent, Dany Noonan and Chyanne Baker, dressed in hoop skirts and bonnets, explained how wounded troops were cared for. They demonstrated the equipment that was used for treatment, including saws for sawing bones during amputations. There were even things as simple as raw onions used for remedies.
Next to the hospital, Haley Beall and Kinsey Arnaud were cooking with black iron pots over an open fire. Taking care not to ignite the long dresses, the ladies explained that they were cooking “Hoppin’ John,” a concoction of black-eyed peas and rice in the closed pot over the fire.
“It is almost ready to add the rice,” said Arnaud as she cooked. In another pot was a mix of sausage and onions. “My husband brought in the deer to make the sausage this morning,” said Beall. Both were playing the role of married camp followers.
A spinning wheel and a quilting frame were at the next tent. The ladies at the tent were a mix from 3rd Texas and 8th Bridge City. One group was taking wool and spinning it into yarn for knitting, demonstrating how the wool had to be combed and cleaned before it could be spun into yarn.
At the quilting frame, Chelsea Linder, Samantha East and Bryanne Hulsey were stitching a quilt together as Jacob Holmes strummed a guitar.
At various times during the event, the band would march and play songs of the 1860’s. The band did a great job of representing the music of the time and providing entertainment for the visitors.
Capt. Mike Bean commanded the 3rd Texas. At his headquarters tent, he explained how the military command functioned in the Civil War. Capt. Bean was assisted by his adjutant, another lady in uniform, Erica Guyote.
Bobby Tisdale of the 3rd Texas brought his display of flags to the re-enactment. Tisdale, dressed in Confederate gray, slouched military hat and high black boots, gave a 15-minute presentation on the history of each flag. As the visitors gathered around, he gave a brief explanation of the history and meaning of each flag. Tisdale’s descriptions of the flags emphasized the history and not the politics of each flag.
“We try to teach the kids that there is a valuable history lesson to be learned by these re-enactments. The way of life was very different in that time from what it is now and we try to teach that. As we work with the kids we teach them the manners of the times, also. We even have the boys tipping their hats to the girls and teach them the manners of the times,” said Tisdale.” Before we allow anyone to join our Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, we check them out thoroughly. We do not want anyone in our group that wants to try to join for the wrong reasons. We are a history group and that is all we are. We are not political or racist. Our aim is to educate.”
When it was time to go from one station to the next Chief Petty Officer Burleigh would fire a volley of rifle shots with his infantry. They would be answered by a shot from the Mountain Howitzer.
The Mountain Howitzer, a small cannon, was probably the most popular display of the day. The six-ounce charge of black powder provided a loud boom and a large cloud of smoke with each shot.
Kenny Peveto of the 3rd Texas was in command of the Howitzer. Mitchel Hubbard, Alfredo Lara, and Matt Menard of the 8th Bridge City assisted him. Peveto explained that a Mountain Howitzer was small enough to be pulled by one horse and was mobile and effective.
Each member of the Howitzer team had a specific duty and each member’s job was important to the firing. After the powder charge was placed in the barrel and rammed into place, the group took stations on each side of the cannon and covered their ears. When the lanyard was pulled and the cannon fired, the smoke covered the team for a moment. Visitors to the re-enactment were often startled and often jumped out of surprise.
In addition to the families of the 8th Bridge City as observers, students from other area schools attended. The event drew a capacity crowd of more than 250.
As this year’s members of the 8th Bridge City promote out of the group, others are waiting to move up a grade and into the group.