Civil War revisited at Lawrence County Museum

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 26, 2003

The lawn of the Lawrence County Historical Museum was transformed into Camp Ironton Saturday, complete with Civil War uniforms, rifles and the smell of pinto beans cooking over an open fire.

"We want people to see what life was like years ago," organizer Debbie Rogers said. "Some people may not be aware there was an encampment in town."

The reenactment drew Civil War-era history buffs from throughout the Tri-State.

Email newsletter signup

Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Frank McCown brought his collection of Civil War era rifles, swords and personal items a soldier would have used during that time: a wooden canteen, a new testament, coffee beans carried in a small cloth pouch and a skatchet - a multipurpose tool that doubled as an axe, hammer and wire cutter.

"It didn't have a handle, but it had holes for one," McCown explained. "Then when the soldier needed a handle he broke off a branch and put it in the holes, and there you are."

McCown's collection included both a wool Union Army uniform and a cotton Confederate uniform. McCown's collection had something both sides would have worn - a pair of cotton long johns.

Jim Epling, of Catlettsburg, Ky., sat sketching the museum building, dressed in a Union soldier's uniform. Epling is a member of the 91st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a group that takes part regularly in area Civil War reenactments. Epling praised the Camp Ironton reenactment as a way of keeping local history alive.

"Lawrence County provided so many soldiers for the Union cause," Epling said. "And people sometimes forget what their ancestors did, the things they ate."

The flavor of the Civil war era was provided quite literally by Dan and Rena Fulks of Chesapeake. They offered visitors pinto beans and cornbread, cooked in a big cast iron kettle over an open fire, the way food was cooked some 150 years ago.

"That's 30 pounds of beans," Dan Fulks said. "It could feed 180 people." The Fulks' serve up beans and cornbread for many area historic and folk festivals throughout the year.

For James Oiler, Ron McClintock and Steve Massie, the Camp Ironton reenactment is not just a way of getting in touch with the nation's history, but their own personal history as well. All three men are descendants of Civil War soldiers. They are all members of the "Sons of Union Veterans," and the 91st OVI. Like Epling, they take part in Civil War reenactments throughout the year. Their display included two canvas tents and a round wooden barrel.

"An old history teacher of mine once said, and I like to quote him, 'we are what we are because of what we have been'", Oiler said. "If you think about it, it makes sense. We are here today because of this. If a few things had turned out differently, what would our country be today? Would it be The United States or two separate countries? Our whole lifestyle could have been different."