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Preparations are Nearly Complete for Battle of Wilson's Creek Reenactment

(Stormy Cox talking about site)

That’s Stormy Cox, site manager at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, talking about the place where the 150thanniversary and reenactment of the battle will take place this Friday thru Sunday…

Car doors

As we arrive at a shady spot just across Wilson’s Creek from where the battle will be portrayed, Cox talks about some of the work that’s been done to prepare for this monumental event.  According to Cox, planning has been taking place for close to a year and a half…

"We did this 20 years ag0, more or less not knowing what we were doing, and we just blindly went into it and it all kind of fell together at the last minute and everything like that and then, but this event is a magnitude larger than that event.  This is the 150th --that was the 130th, it wasn't any special deal, this is the 150th, excuse me"  (cell phone rings) 

Cox’s cell phone is constantly ringing as preparations continue for the event this weekend that’s expected to draw between 50 and 70,000 visitors to the battlefield.


Across the creek, workers are cutting down brush and trees so spectators will have a clear view of the battles.  The reenactment won’t take place on the actual site where the battle occurred 150 years ago—but on land just north of the battlefield that has been transformed…

"There were cows all over the place.  We've built a bridge here with MODOT's help.  We built another bridge up the road with MODOT's help, around the corner up here. We've cleared hundreds and hundreds of thorn trees out of everywhere because, you know, as you can see there are thorn trees everywhere, and we're trying to take it back to as close to what it used to look like." 

Cox says it’s taken a lot of hard work to get to this point…

"It takes many many hundreds of volunteers, 15 or 20 committees with members on the committees, you know, planning above my level.  (laughs) As I try to tell everybody I'm just the guy that's in charge of the portapotties, and you know, we've got to give them water, ice, straw to sleep on, hay for the horses.  We're gonna have probably close to 300 horses here.  We have to have a vet on site to take care of the horses.  We have to have an electrician on site to do the generators.  We've got a plumber here 'cause we've got water supplies everywhere.  It's just--we're creating a small city here that's going to support 3000  plus reenactors and all their families, plus the 50 to 60 to 70,000 to how many thousand spectators that are going to be here over the 4-day period." 

While Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield employees are busy readying the reenactment site, those will portray the soldiers are busy preparing for the event, too.  Terry Crowder, of St. Louis, commander of the Union reenactors and Joe Way, from Pensicola, Florida, commander of the Confederate reenactors have been at Wilson’s Creek since Sunday.  Way says they started preparing for the reenactment about a year ago…

"Organizing the armies, contacting people to see how many can come.  You know, it's expensive sometimes getting on the road to get here, so you just start building your armies together, start studying the scenarios of what happened." 

According to Crowder, a team of historians has been working to make sure the reenactment is as accurate as possible.  He says he and Way have been studying the battle for several months, making sure they know—as much as is possible—what took place…

"That's our biggest issue is to get the fine details to make it as accurate as we possibly can and keep it as pristine as we possibly can so that when the Confederates came on the field here, they were a new army, they were a baby army, they didn't know what they were doing.  But, by the time this battle was over with, they were experienced, hard core soldiers who knew exactly what to do, and they proved that by whipping a superior army at the time, because of weaponry and experience.  The Confederates, within 3 days,  grew and became a tremendous army, and that's the little details that we're gonna try and show out here." 

Way says if you attend all 3 days of the reenactment you’ll see the progression before your eyes…

"We start off ragtag--squirrel guns, limited ammunition, disorganized, and then by Sunday, I'll have my Confederates in a formed battle line and we'll push forward on Bloody Hill."

Crowder says they try as much as possible to create an immersion event, not only for the reenactors, but also the spectators.  A town will be set up nearby to show what women and children endured during the war…

"Most of the time the women and children are forgotten about--what their role was in the Civil War, so we've designed a town to let the public know exactly how hard this war was on the women and the children.  You know, they were an important part.  It was them who was making uniforms and sending bread and sending food  to the men who didn't have anything, who would go days without a bite of food, so those are the things that we try to bring to these events for the spectators." 

Way says spectators need to try to change their mindsets as much as possible to imagine they’re back in the 1860s in order to get the most out of the reenactment.

Meanwhile, he says troops will start drilling tomorrow and will be disciplined, organized and ready to portray the Battle of Wilson’s Creek when the event starts Friday morning.

To find out more about the event, call the battlefield at 732-2662 or visit

For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.