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145th Mill Springs Reenactment Will Be On Original Battlefield

- (September 2007) NANCY, Ky. - Combine five years of planning, original battle land with unique topography, a new visitor center, and extensive community involvement and you have the national 145th anniversary of the Battle of Mill Springs reenactment on Sept. 29 and 30.

William Neikirk, president of the Mill Springs Battlefield Association, promises an event that is "reenactor friendly" and affordable for spectators.

The Mill Springs battle of Jan. 19, 1862, was fought for three hours in rain and fog. It was a great Union victory. "If Gen. George Thomas hadn't won out here, we wouldn't have heard of him again," Neikirk jokes.

He explains that topography dictated how the battle would be fought, "more so than any other battle of the Civil War," because there were steep ravines on either side of the road. The armies couldn't get around each other, he says.

"It still looks like it did 145 years ago."

The reenactment will be held on 600 acres of original battlefield, more than 400 of which comprise the Mill Springs Battlefield National Historic Landmark. Neikirk's association expanded its holdings with the help of a $60,000 grant from the Center for Civil War Living History, which received $500,000 for the services of reenactors in "Gods and Generals."

Reenactors who took part in the movie will be invited to sign their names on a large wall that will be preserved. The 145th event will be unique in that 2,000 troops on both sides will engage in actions as they did in 1862. The Fight for the Cornfield will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday and the Fight at the Split Rail Fence at 2 p.m. Sunday. The Dawn Attack in the Fog will be fought at dawn on Sunday.

History is being stretched a bit. All military branches will be involved, although historically the artillery and cavalry were not used a lot, according to Neikirk.

A separate cavalry battle replicating Pegram's Cavalry coming into Kentucky in a March 1863 raid at Dutton's Hill (Somerset) will give that branch some action at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The Western Brigade plans to camp campaign style on Friday night where the 10th Indiana camped and march into battle Saturday.

Because Mill Springs was early in the war Confederates were not in uniform and wore clothes from home. "Reenactors can wear just about anything that looks homespun and be correct," Neikirk says. Flintlock muskets are not allowed and large wall tents and Sibley tents will be accurate.

In preparation for the reenactment 4,000 feet of city water line has been run. Four miles of gravel roads have been laid. The state highway will be covered with mulch so that it looks authentic to the period.

After the reenactment the new roads will serve as bike trails. The battlefield already has self-guided walking trails and a 10-stop driving tour.

The new 10,000-square-foot visitor center, which opened in November, is adding display cases of artifacts from the battlefield and showing the traveling exhibit "Liberty on the Border" until Jan. 5.

The 145th event is a 100 percent fundraiser for Mill Springs, says Neikirk. "No outsiders are making any money on this one at all." Volunteers are doing everything, including the food. School clubs, ROTC and community groups will be helping.

He says it is important to keep the event affordable so that kids will come back with their kids. Children under 6 will get in free and ages 6-15 at $5 for the whole weekend. Two-day adult tickets are offered for $20. Adult tickets ordered on line are discounted $3. Details are at www.millsprings.com

28th Mass. Volunteers Online

- (June 2007) ATTLEBORO, Mass. - The recreated 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, a non-profit Civil War living history organization that portrays the 4th Regiment of the famous Irish Brigade, has unveiled an enhanced and expanded Web site at http://www28thmass.org.

The site features an online Recruiting Office with enlistment form for those interested in portraying a Union Army soldier. Potential recruits can learn about Civil War reenacting in general, the 28th regiment in particular, and the uniform and equipment needed to take the field.

The 28th Massachusetts Shop, an Amazon.com-affiliated store, offers Civil War and Irish Brigade books, movies, music and gifts. Purchases support the unit's fundraising for a permanent memorial to the original regiment. The site also includes a regimental history, company rosters, burial locations of veteran soldiers, discussion of the Irish experience in the Civil War and other historical information.

Known for its distinctive green regimental flag and Gaelic war cry, "Faugh a Ballagh" (Clear the Way), the original 28th Massachusetts saw action at James Island, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, during the Overland Campaign and the siege of Petersburg, and was present for the surrender at Appomattox Court House.

Among all Union regiments, the 28th ranked seventh in total losses. Roughly a quarter of the 1,746 men who served in the unit were killed, died of wounds or disease, were taken prisoner, or reported missing during its three and a half years of service.

The non-profit 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was founded in 1984 and is one of the oldest continuously fielding Civil War reenactment units in the Northeast, with members from five New England states.

Jackson's Valley Campaign 145th Event Is June 15-1

- (June 2007) MIDDLETOWN, Va. - "Down the Valley," a major event commemorating the 145th anniversary of Gen. Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign, will be held at Cedar Creek Battlefield the weekend of June 15-17.

Daniel Snyder and Kevin Air will lead the Confederate and Union troops, respectively in the Battles of First Kernstown and First Winchester. The Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, in concert with the Confederate Military Forces and members of the campaign Community, is sponsoring the event, proceeds of which will benefit the foundation.

The battles will depict original maneuvers and tempos reflecting the original battles that took place over large distances. These include a section of horse-drawn cannon, an ambulance corps and cavalry action as described in the Official Records. In order to provide correct force ratios, infantry is being limited to 2,000 participants.

On Saturday morning the armies will spar as they march 2.5 miles to the Panther Cave property on Cedar Creek. While they have lunch and get ready for the 4 p.m. 1st Kernstown Battle, visitors to the camps and living history areas will be able to hear George Contant talk about prisoners from 1st Kernstown and about civilian life in the Valley in 1862 from Suzanne Wall and see a hospital and ambulance demonstration by John Novicki.

The First Battle of Kernstown was fought on March 23 between Jackson's men and a Union force that was larger than Jackson anticipated. The Confederates retreated and more Union forces were ordered into the Valley as a result of the action.

Saturday night at 7 The New Old World Theater Company will present "Our American Cousin" for event participants in the activities tent.

On Sunday morning a scripted predawn/dawn action will depict the Confederate advance toward Winchester and Col. Gordon's delaying actions early in the morning.

The 1st Battle of Winchester will begin at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

The original May 25 battle was a Confederate victory after Jackson's force-march during the night to prevent the Union forces from fortifying Winchester.

For information go to www.cedarcreekbattlefield.org


119th NY Members Usher In New Year On The Firing Line

(April 2007) CALVERTON, N.Y. - Some members of Co. H, 119th New York Volunteers Historical Association, have a unique way of preventing overindulgence on New Year's Eve - the Long Island reenactors muster early every New Year's Day for high-decibel target practice.

"Drunkards need not apply," said Bill DeGeorge, a former Marine from Bay Shore. "Anyone suffering from a hangover would not be able to stand the noise." Even with the mandatory ear protection.

Even for those who didn't imbibe, there was a disincentive for turning out at the Calverton Shooting Range at 10 a.m. - a persistent, wind-driven rain that never let up before the history buffs decided to call it a day after about two hours and go for hot coffee.

The new year's muster is a rain-or-shine event, although this year's rain was the first in more than a decade of target practice. The attraction for the nine reenactors who participated this year - about three-quarters of the usual turnout - was the rare chance to fire real bullets at something. During reenactment battles, they fire blanks and point their rifles in the air to avoid potential injuries to Confederates.

Barry Riedel of Patchogue, an Army veteran and the company's quartermaster sergeant and weapons expert, said, "We encourage people to come out and learn about their rifles. Once you're shooting a projectile, you have a bigger recoil."

Rob Walker of Coram, who has been to five of the New Year's gatherings, said, "People think it's kind of odd, but most of the time we're not the only ones doing it." Even when it's freezing or even snowing, most New Year's mornings the range is mobbed and they have to wait for a spot.

There was no cover for the shooters. Riedel spelled out the safety instructions, yelled, "Ready on the right, ready on the left" and then "lock and load." A cacophony of loud thuds ensued.

Mike Scanlon of Wheatley Heights is the "freshest fish" in Co. H, having joined in September. "I've been firing blanks with the rifle since I joined so this is an opportunity to fire live rounds," he said. In fact, it was the first time he had ever loaded a gun larger than .22 with live ammunition.

He was wearing his uniform and rubber poncho. Nonetheless, after a few minutes, he noted that he was soaked to the bone. "I wouldn't think they'd be able to fight in the rain, but talking to the captain [Mark Adler] he said that's what they did. They had battles in the rain."

Adler, who exercised the privilege of his rank by being one of the first to head for his car, said the outing provided useful experience for the recruits. "It gives them a little feeling of what it was like," he said. "They fought in raging thunderstorms. But it was pretty rare to fight battles in the wintertime, although there were a few, Fredericksburg for one in December."

The barrels of the original and replica muzzle-loading Enfield rifle-muskets - the same guns used by the original Co. H - began to foul with damp black powder residue after a handful of rounds. So they were returned to the car trunks and replaced with a 1917 World War I Remington, World War II M-1 Garand and a Vietnam era M-16 - guns with sharper reports and more of a recoil because of their higher muzzle velocity.

Sipping coffee afterwards, Scanlon said, "It was a great experience. I'll do it again."

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