Living history

Jay Lively

Clothed in a red and black antebellum dress, Frankfort senior Rosemary Swain held her ears and cringed as a Confederate soldier pulled the rope.

Cannon fire shook the ground.

Taking orders from a superior, the soldier reloaded the cannon and prepared for another round.

Confederate and Union soldiers continued exchanging fire and shouting commands on Saturday at the Living History Day at Riverview in Hobson Grove.

Dressed in Civil War garb, men and women performed re-enactments of what a typical Civil War battle might have looked like.

Swain looked on with others playing soldier’s wives and daughters, just as a lady spectator might have done at the the first Battle of Bull Run.

“This is a really special day here,” Swain said as gunshots fired. “This is the first re-enactment we’ve had here in a while. It’s a pretty big deal.”

A volunteer at Riverview, Swain was one of three Western students who worked at the ‘Brother Against Brother – Kentucky During the Civil War’ re-enactment.

Bowling Green senior Gary Strain is a weekend manager at the “Hobson House” and gave museum tours of the historic homestead as part of the day’s activities.

“We’ve had a pretty good turnout here today,” he said. “People want to seek out their heritage. We’re such a diverse group of people. We identify ourselves with American history, especially the Civil War.”

Hobson Grove never actually saw combat during the war although it is an official site of the Civil War Discovery Trail. The farmhouse was a strategic location, perched on a hill overlooking the once bustling Barren River.

Museum Director Susan Reddick said the site was an appropriate venue for the re-enactment.

“Riverview has family Civil War history and site Civil War history,” she said. “Two of the Hobson sons fought for the Union. William, the eldest son was the youngest colonel on record in the Union Army.

“Atwood Hobson’s wife, Julia, came from a staunch Confederate family. Her brothers and nephews fought for the confederacy. Hence the title for the event – ‘Brother against Brother.’ Kentucky was split down the middle.”

Construction of the mansion was interrupted in 1861 when the Confederate army entered Bowling Green and declared it the new capital of Kentucky.

Despite owner Atwood Hobson being a Union supporter, the house was spared by Confederate soldiers and used as an artillery depot.

“When the Confederate soldiers moved into Bowling Green in 1861, the Hobson family abandoned the partly built home,” Reddick said. “The Confederate army put a temporary roof on it and stored ammunition for the surrounding forts.”

After the war, the mansion was eventually completed by 1872.

Before afternoon re-enactments, tours of the ‘Hobson House’ were given and followed a slide presentation by geography and geology professor Michael Trapasso on Kentucky history during the Civil War.

Pistols and swords on guard, soldiers in blue coats and grey coats set aside their differences for lunch as volunteers served up barbecued pork and Kentucky Burgoo with an apple or peach turnover for dessert.

After the meal, Confederate soldiers manned their cannons while Union calvarymen lined up their horses. The ritual captured the disciplined nature of combat before the turn of the century.

Confederate soldier Wayne Peters, of Lexington, said Civil War re-enactments are a good way to keep history alive.

“If you don’t remember your history, you won’t learn from it,” Peters said. “All of this area is rich in Civil War history. It’s deep in our memory and our culture.

“I feel like I was born 140 years too late. I’m more comfortable in these clothes than I am in the suit I was in earlier. “

Kadie Patterson, a senior from Smyrna, Tenn., worked the event as part of her internship at Riverview and said it was a good way to raise money for maintaining the historic site.

“It’s just fun being able to be a part of something like this,” Patterson said. “It’s neat being around all the people dressed up, really enjoying themselves. It’s a good way to get the community involved.”

Union soldier Rick Gorrell, of Nashville, said he has experienced d?ja vu quite a few times during reenactments.

“You really feel like you’ve been there,” Gorrell said. “I love sitting in the camp with everybody. You’re out there smelling the smoke. It’s family here. It’s all about the camaraderie.”