American Civil War Meets the Old West on The Mountain
For the first time ever, a Civil War re-enactment took place on Canton’s First Monday Grounds at Old Mill Market Place during the world famous First Monday Weekend. This weekend like any First Monday Weekend is the first weekend that falls before the first Monday of every month. This month is February, and “all’s fair in love and war.”
What is an American Civil War re-enactment?
American Civil War re-enactment is an effort to recreate the appearance of a particular battle or other event associated with the American Civil War by hobbyists known as Civil War reenactors, and according to First Sergeant Brian Larsen, “Living historians is what we really are.” The First Sergeant explained, they don’t wear costumes; they are uniforms, that are usually sown by the very reenactors wearing them.” The enactments are not scripted and in fact, the soldiers die when they run out of bullets. They get an empty cartridge put in their ammunition box, and when they get to that particular cartridge then it’s a “Bang, boom, or bam” dead. In short, the men and women who decide to portray the soldiers take it very seriously. Another key point is, the whole recreation is built on military reconnaissance. They have to have the right amount historically, for the cavalry (men or women on horses), infantry (foot soldiers), and artillery (serious military weapons).
Who were the key players involved with the enactment coming to the Mountain and Old Mill Market Place?
Karen Fonterhouse was the event organizer, and as a result was, “instrumental for the location for the campground,” according to First Sergeant Brian Larsen. Karen was looking for great ideas for business and businesses to come back, and as a result of the fires, many customers do not realize the Mountain is even open. Karen searched the internet for ideas and came across American Civil War re-enactments. What happened next was astonishing, Karen first contacted Lieutenant Ron White, then came the best part: Ron and First Sergeant Larson, met Karen at Old Mill Market Place. Karen took the two living historians to see the field behind Pavilion Six. First Sargent Larson explained, “With The Mountain setting the time period for Canton, Texas in the 1800’s and the field having the perfect backdrop of high and low elevations, a pond, and trees, it was the perfect place.” He went on to say, “We got excited and started telling the other living historians and got them excited and more people wanted to get involved.” Karen believes First Sergeant Larsen is, “responsible for putting together Canton, Texas’ first-ever American Civil War reenactment.” It only took five months to put the reenactment together.
All photos by Amandi Goldman, The Northeast Texan
How did the Civil War join the Wild West?
The Texicans are a part of the Mountain’s Wild West shows. Old West Shootouts were performed during the First Monday Trade Day weekend on the Mountain Saturday, February 2 at 9 a.m. Imagine sipping coffee, and visiting your local saloon, Circle The Wagon’s Cafe. The day’s activities had a sense of anticipation of what was yet to come…when the Texicans (the Mountain’s Outlaws) stormed in to rob your favorite place. They took the money from Linda Simpson, and made their escape through the back door, and down the Mountain. This was to be their fatal mistake. As they reached the bottom of The Mountain, the 9thTexas Infantry (one of the oldest Civil War reenactment units in Texas) stormed up to meet the Texicans for an old fashioned Okay Corral shootout. The four outlaws met their match with the infantry, and with that the fate of the Texicans was sealed.
“Battle Of The Old Mill Station”
If big cannons and rifles were not your interest, then maybe the Civil War era clothing was. The ladies dressed in formal and non formal southern and northern attire. The dances at the Ball would have you clapping and stomping your feet, while the cannons on the battle field were making your heart skip a beat.
The “Battle Of The Old Mill Station” took place at the back field behind Pavilion Six. The 9thTexas infantry is Confederate, made up of both men and women, but First Sergeant Larsen said, “You have to have both sides to do an impression of Federal infantry and Confederate infantry.” Enactors created a Federal infantry within their Confederate Company. The 9thTexas Infantry and Karen Fonterhouse provided a weekend full of Civil War Reenactments along with a living history, which included a civilian camp where one could purchase their very own Civil War era dress or uniform, artisans for example: blacksmiths and tin smiths, sutlers and several historical displays. Karen was excited about how the weekend turned out, and when this writer finally caught up with her on Sunday she was asked what was her opinion about the re-enactments and the weekend as a whole. She exclaimed, “I think it is fantastic, I think it will be a great thing for the City of Canton, The Mountain, and Old Mill Market Place. Canton, Texas just made 200 new friends.” Saturday, February 2 there were over 500 visitors to the event, and as well as it was thought out, it is no surprise that they plan to put on the re-enactment at least once a year.
How can a person join in the fun and excitement of reliving history?
First Sergeant Brian Larsen describes his recruitment with all smiles. Mr. Larson went to a 9th Texas re-enactment in McKinney, Texas looking to join a chuck wagon as a cook. The chuck wagon was having a cook-off and cooking over an open fire was very pleasing to him. The next thing Brain knew he was getting dressed up in a uniform, sitting around a campfire, where they treated him like family, and he was hooked. He joined the 9thTexas Infantry not with a spoon in his hand, but with a rifle.
This hobby is not for the faint of heart. These living historians do not get paid, and in fact, they have to pay to re-enact and pay for their uniforms or dresses and to be honest, it can be quite expensive. These historians have pride and passion in their history that makes it a treat to visit the camps and interact with the soldiers. A person can enlist while at the re-enactment or they can go to the website: www.9thtexas.org.
When the war is over, they dance.
Dyson Nickel is a history teacher by day, but on weekend re-enactments he plays the bones and calls the dances at the Civil War Ball. The Ball is beautiful from the full ball room gowns and era-styled dances. It was the one night event that men, women, and children didn’t want to miss.