About 15 years ago, Tom Lowe planned a vacation with his family and ended up staring down a line of Confederate soldiers in one of the final battles of the Civil War.
It was the first time Lowe donned the Union blues to participate in a Civil War re-enactment at the Battle of Bentonville, in North Carolina.
The city of Jeffersonville’s corporation attorney had planned to go watch the Civil War re-enactment after he found out that his great-great grandfather, George Thomas Lowe, a private in the Third Indiana Cavalry fought in the battle. It was his daughter’s spring break and he was taking her to Washington, D.C., via Georgia, where his parents lived. Visiting North Carolina on the way was a chance to see the re-enactment as they all headed north to visit the nation’s capital.
“Initially, the plans were to go watch,” Lowe said.
But before the trip, he had been in contact with people online in history chat rooms.
“One of the guys was like, ‘If I could get you hooked up with some people would you like to play?’” Lowe said. “I was like, ‘duh,’ you know,” he said with a laugh.
Lowe said he was loaned the gear and participated in the re-enactment for two days.
“On the second day, we go out into this field, laid out the same way it was in 1865, and I looked to my left about 100 yards away and immediately recognized there’s the tree line that my great-great grandfather would’ve been in,” Lowe said. “That was [a] hair [raising] on the arm moment.”
The vacation triggered a passion for Lowe, who has been participating in about eight to 10 Civil War events each year since the first re-enactment.
“I’ve always had an interest in history,” he said.
Lowe added that even as a child he said he had a significant interest in Civil War history, because there is so much of it evident in Southern Indiana. When he began investigating his own family on his dad’s side of his lineage, he discovered his great-great grandfather had fought in the war.
He discovered his ancestor had been captured during Morgan’s raid, and about a month after he was captured, he enlisted in an Indiana cavalry regiment and served out the rest of the war. During his time in the cavalry, Lowe’s great-great grandfather rode through Knoxville and Chattanooga Tenn., was a part of Sherman’s March to the Sea, fought in the Battle of Atlanta and then marched up into the Carolinas near the war’s end. George Lowe was captured again in 1865, either at the Battle of Averasborough or Bentonville.
“Within a few months of getting that information ... [I] found out there was going to be a re-enactment there,” he said.
The Battle of Averasborough was a precursor to the Battle of Bentonville, which was the last fight between Union Gen. William Sherman and Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston, and effectively served as the last battle of the Civil War.
Lowe said he has been back to Bentonville since, but after that first re-enactment he was hooked.
“It’s still a very cool feeling that you’re sharing an experience that a family member did,” Lowe said.