Confederates dismantle Yankees

by Morgan Wall

ROCKFORD — Taking advantage of the nice weather, spectators gathered in Rockford Sunday afternoon for the second day of the fifth annual Civil War Battle and Living History Weekend.

Many people grabbed a bite to eat in the Rockford General Store, which was serving up chicken and dumplings and pintos and cornbread in addition to its usual staples, before heading to the amphitheater behind the building for the battle.

At 1:30 p.m., a sudden outburst of gun fire let the spectators know the battle was starting and all attention turned to the field. They watched as the Union troops advanced, were surrounded by Confederate troops, fell back, advanced and finally surrendered. Complete with tactical retreats to move troops to different avenues, sneak attacks from behind and even a last stand charge by some of the Union troops, the battle lived up to its hype.

For some, the battle was a chance to get out and enjoy some fresh air.

“It’s nice outside so we wanted to get some fresh air,” said Debra Holt, who was at the re-enactment with her husband and their two dogs. “I’ve been here before and seen a Revolutionary War re-enactment. These are fun.”

For others, the event was a chance not only to enjoy the weather but to witness a part of history.

“I rode my horse out here yesterday. I’ve never seen this before,” said John Doss, who came back on Sunday with family and friends. “I used to play this same stuff. Those horses out there, I used to ride right with them. I think it’s good for everybody to learn this stuff.”

“I’ve been to one several years ago in Abingdon (Va.). I’ve always wanted to come to Old Rockford but never had the chance,” said Lynn and Sandy Hallman. “It brings history to life and helps us appreciate our roots and where we came from.”

Linda Jordan took the trip down memory lane even further. Her grandfather grew up in Rockford and she had a number of relatives who were killed in the Civil War. For the past five years, she has been putting together a family tree and trying to find out as much about her ancestors as possible.

“I had a lot of kin killed in the Civil War, and I find it very interesting,” she said.

Her great-great-grandfather had six sons all of whom were in the war. Three of the sons died as did a daughter and some of his daughters-in-law. He also died in the 1860s. Some of the children on the other side of the family also were killed.

“Both fathers died in the 1860s. I think they grieved to death,” she said. “I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like then. It had to have been tough.”

Following the battle, visitors took some time to visit the encampment and talk with some of the re-enactors as well as take pictures. Throughout the weekend, the re-enactors organized skits for the spectators in order to portray different aspects of life in an encampment during the Civil War.

On Sunday, they performed a skit revolving around captured spies and deserters. Some of the Confederate soldiers ran from the camp to track down a deserter. The supposed deserter was brought before a court along with a spy from the Union ranks.

“Have mercy on my life,” pleaded the corporal. “It’s terrible out there. Men kill each other in the worst ways.”

His sister even came to try to plead his case. However, the court ruled against the pleas and found him guilty of desertion as the spectators looked on.

“Lieutenant, our duty is clear. We have to execute this man,” said the presiding authority.

Even after Union troops appeared in the Confederate camp to negotiate for the spy captured, the court still had its say in his case as well.

“You’ve been condemned by this court to die,” declared the presiding authority once again.

Both men were then taken to the firing squad as the spectators gathered around to witness the event.

“You’re gonna send me to Hell with a Yankee!?” cried the deserter in a final attempt to find mercy from the troops.

After the firing squad carried out their orders, the crowd dissipated once more to enjoy the rest of the afternoon, whether it was browsing through the general store or enjoying a snack at one of the picnic tables in the sun.

The re-enactors slowly began to break down camp and pack their gear before heading home until next year. The group and the village of Rockford decided this year that the encampment will have a permanent home the first weekend of March from now on.

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