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Lifestyles

June 9, 2014

Battling to preserve history

Re-enactment at Tunnel Mill tells of time, events gone by

CHARLESTOWN — The Battle at Tunnel Mill took place Saturday and Sunday, marking its fourth re-enactment.

The annual event at the Tunnel Mill grounds at the historic John Work House is centered on Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his invasion of Southern Indiana in 1863. Although Morgan did not invade the area of the re-enactment, the event is based on what would have happened, and what did happen in many other small towns.

The battle involved an artillery demonstration, a re-enactment of a Confederate attack and a fictional battle between Confederate and Union soldiers. There were also other representations of the time, such as the blacksmith’s tent and tents for soldiers.

It also included tours of the restored John Work House. John Work was the man who actually built the original Tunnel Mill.

The event is meant to serve as an interpretation of the historical period.

Diana Stevens has been participating in historical re-enactments such as this for 35 years. She said she started out as a puppeteer and then eventually made her way to renaissance festivals, Revolutionary War re-enactments and events like Tunnel Mill.

“If you don’t learn from history, you’ll repeat it,” Stevens said. “Everything is always evolving and nowadays something old is something new for the younger generation.”

Stevens makes all of her costumes. On average, Stevens and her husband participate in two re-enactments a month.

David Garrison and his wife Mary have been participating in historical events for about 15 years. It was their second year at the Battle of Tunnel Mill. David Garrison is a schoolteacher in Pekin.

“This kind of history really isn’t taught in school anymore. This teaches what it was like for people and civilians,” he said.

He added that even though a battle did not occur in the area, the mill supplied flour during the Civil War and the area was guarded by Union troops.

“My favorite part is talking to the families and kids ... they have a lot of questions,” David Garrison said.

Mary Garrison said her role is vital because she wants to educate the community about the role of women in the Civil War.

“There were over 400 documented cases of women who tried to dress as men and fight in the war,” she said.

Mick Cain said he also participates in an effort to educate people on facts they may not know. Cain was the blacksmith at the event.

“Today’s world is a throw-away society; 20 years ago blacksmithing was more desired,” he said. “Every piece I make is unique.”

Cain said history is doomed to repeat itself unless it is learned from.

Re-enactors were not the only people at the mock battle. Troop 100 of the Boy Scouts of America provided concessions to raise money for their summer camp. Rick St. Clair was one of the supporters of the troop. He said the land used for the re-enactment is actually the Boy Scout’s land.

“[The battle] shows the history so that the history doesn’t die out,” St. Clair said. “As we go into the future, we kind of forget our past.”

Nathan Logsdon, curator of Historic Tunnel Mill, said the point of the event is to showcase history and illustrate what the Civil War was like for civilians with troops, “foraging for food in houses and marching through fields.”

Logsdon said Historic Tunnel Mill has a 99-year contract with the Boy Scouts. He said he has a lot of ideas and dreams on what to do with that time.

“I really want it to become an in-depth historic place where people can experience history in a hands on way,” Logsdon said. “They need to touch, feel and experience instead of just seeing it.”

For now, the John Work Home is open on weekends for tours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., along with nature walks.

The next event at the Historic Tunnel Mill site will be the Fourth of July Blast, which will showcase historic cannons and artillery. Logsdon said it will be, “like a car show, but with cannons.”

The season for Tunnel Mill will then pick up again in October for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and then in December for Christmas Candlelight Tours. More information can be found at historictunnelmill.org

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