Local men and women of Nodaway County have dusted off their props in preparation for the Civil War battle re-enactment season.

Re-enactors dress in time-period clothing and gear and travel all across the nation performing for audiences and teaching youth about our country’s history.

Confederate soldier Harold Duryea, Maryville, visits with Steve Montgomery, company founder, while waiting for breakfast to cook over the camp fire.

They set up military camps, pitching time-period tents and cooking over an open fire with cast iron pans. Spectators are invited to wander through the camps asking about the history and witnessing how soldiers lived during the war. Typically, the events have a civilian section where re-enactors demonstrate how to make candles, soap, spin yarn, knit, quilt, teach children’s games, create drawings and a variety of other activities.

A traveling general store tent sells time-period clothing, gear, accessories, camping equipment and all of the items needed to keep the actors accurate.

At each event, re-enactors perform a live battle involving cavalry, real cannons and muskets, soldiers and strategy. All weapons use black powder and caps, allowing spectators to hear the booming noise, see and smell the smoke, and be captivated as they watch the battle unfold and listen to the heartbreaking cries of the soldiers.

“I enjoy Civil War re-enactment because of the camaraderie with the members of my company and the opportunity to interact and educate the spectators as to the history and life of the era,” Harold Duryea, Confederate re-enactor, stated.

In the evenings, the ladies trade their camp dresses for fancy dresses as time-period balls and weddings are performed.

Members of Nodaway County participate in four different re-enactment companies.

Foot soldiers

The 1st Missouri Dismounted Cavalry Company F was a confederate company that traditionally volunteered to become infantry during the war when infantry numbers dropped. The group performs on foot, but is allowed to carry the extra accessories of a cavalry unit including pistols.

“As a rebel, you can express yourself in many different ways. Historically, the South could not afford uniforms, forcing the soldiers to clothe themselves. They could be dressed like farmers or they would use mixed pieces of the Union and Confederate uniforms that they may have found. When it is hot at an event, the rebels can fight in a light shirt instead of the full wool uniform of the Union,” Nate Rice, Confederate re-enactor, said.

Those interested in joining the dismounted rebel forces can contact Rice at 816.344.9794.

For individuals interested in joining the Union infantry, the 7th and 30th Irish Brigade, part of the US Muddy River Battalion, is a company that portrays traditional foot soldiers. For more information, visit moirishbrigade.org or contact Captain Kevin Christensen at 816.721.2880.

Cavalry units 

Confederate cavalry riders, Bob Green, Polo, and Raymond Riley, Maitland, charge the Union cavalry at Lamoni, IA. The group also portrays a Union cavalry group.

Raymond and Patti Riley, Maitland, ride in two cavalry groups. One is Confederate, the 12th Missouri Mounted Cavalry, and the other is Union, the 2nd Colorado Mounted Cavalry. Individuals who wish to join the cavalry can ride one of the group’s extra horses if they do not have a horse of their own. All the horses have been trained to be around loud noises.

“It’s a blast, no pun intended. It’s living history; it’s fun. If you do it one time, you’ll be hooked,” Riley stated.

Those who wish to join the cavalry can contact Riley at 660.254.3938.

Preserving history

All three groups have enough extra articles of clothing, gear, muskets and tents to outfit interested individuals who would like to attend an event to try it out. Women are welcome to join all of the groups and may dress as either a time-period civilian or as a solider.

The groups typically travel to close events but have participated in large national events including those at Gettysburg and Shiloh.

Many of the re-enactors have family ancestors who fought in the Civil War on both sides of the conflict. Re-enactors perform to preserve the history and they chose not to get involved in the historical politics. When necessary, a re-enactor will switch sides for a particular event to even the numbers for the battle.

All three groups can be found on social media.