Kentucky Building celebrates Civil War anniversary

Kevin Allen

Sept. 17 marked the 150th anniversary of the occupation of Bowling Green by confederate forces, and the Kentucky Building commemorated the event with a day of American Civil War events.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the museum hosted exhibits, speakers, reenactors and several activities directed at children. Hooking the younger generations on history early on is always a goal for Christy Spurlock, the education curator and associate professor at the museum.

Reaching out to WKU students is also important, though, and the event was swipable for students that attended. But a home football game and tailgating parties meant there were relatively few college students in the audience.

Rather than be discouraged, Spurlock said she hopes that in the future events like this will bring students out to take advantage of the relatively unknown resources available at the museum.

“I just think many students don’t realize what a cool place this is,” she said. “It’s not just Kentucky. We have European items. We have an Egyptian sarcophagus. It’s a cool building with all of these resources.”

Parents such as Bowling Green resident Sharla Martinez, who brought one of her children and a friend to the event, were taking advantage of the opportunities that the museum gave them.

Martinez arrived during a carbine demonstration outside the museum and was glad to see the uniformed reenactors firing their weapons so her child could get a view into what the past was actually like.

“My kids are studying American history this year, and of course I want to enliven their experiences and give them real, hands on experiences besides a testbook,” she said.

It wasn‘t just the parents who were glad for the focus on children‘s activities. Hooking the next generation on history while they are still young has always been a goal for Robert Bell, a reenactor that serves as a 1st Sergeant in the 12th United States Colored Heavy Artillery regiment.

Bell gave a presentation about African American soldiers in Kentucky during the Civil War, and brought several personal artifacts such as artillery shells and antique swords from the period.

He purchased his artifacts over several years, so that he would have something to show children during his presentations and this event in particular suited him.

“I think it’s a great event,” Bell said. “I’m really pleased by the number of activities for children because that’s what we need, to get our youth involved. Anybody that missed today, has missed a treat.”

Today held even more significance for Michael Trapasso, a professor emeritus of the geography and geology department and longtime reenactor. 

Trapasso was dressed in the uniform of a confederate captain to mark the anniversary of the capture of Bowling Green 150 years ago, and gave demonstrations of both a carbine and cavalry saber.

For Trapasso the fact there were no famous battles fought in Bowling Green should not deter people from remembering the importance of Bowling Green to the Civil War, and that goes double for the people that live here.

“Especially if you’re a Bowling Green resident, this is your history,” Trapasso said. “This is your town, these are the things that happened right here on the streets where we drive and work and live everyday, and I think people should be aware of it. Come out and learn.”