GREENVILLE — Business was “booming” at Shawnee Prairie Preserve over the weekend as the Darke County Park District hosted a Ohio Valley Civil War Association (OVCWA) encampment.
Participating units with the OVCWA spoke to 8th-grade students from Tri-Village and Mississinawa schools on Friday morning, with 5th- through 8th-grade students from St. Mary’s Catholic school being feted in the afternoon.
The free event was opened to the general public on Saturday and Sunday. Demonstrations of drills, including that of Civil War-era infantry and artillery, were held at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. each day, despite rainy conditions.
Educators on hand included the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Co. G, 66th Illinois Co. G, also known as “Birge’s Western Sharpshooters,” and the 1st Ohio Light Artillery Bat. C.
Between demonstrations, visitors were able to interact with reenactors to observe what daily life was like for Union soldiers and civilians.
Darke County Parks Naturalist Hannah Linebaugh, who helped organize the event, called the encampment a “pilot event” for local schools.
“We’re hoping to have a lot more schools come out in future years,” she said.
Linebaugh herself participated in the event, dressing in the garb of a “upper middle class or upper class” lady as she described it.
“My character is in transition right now,” she said, having portrayed a seamstress in past events.
With two other ladies decked out in period dress, they explained to students how ladies of the time wore multiple layers under their hoop skirts.
“We get a lot of interesting questions, like ‘How do I use the bathroom in this?’” she said, laughing. “Day-to-day stuff you don’t even realize.”
Ultimately, the goal of the encampment, for both students and the public, is to give them a real-life picture of life for soldiers and civilians during the tumultuous Civil War years.
“It’s nice to bring this to life,” said Linebaugh. “This is the material culture. Don’t get me wrong — in the classrooms they learn the dates, names, the battles, the economics — but with this they get to touch, they get to feel, to see how people actually lived then.”
“We like them to see that the Civil War was real,” she added. “It was more than names and dates. People actually struggled and fought to bring them to the life we have in this country today.”
The OVCWA also includes Co. A 1st Battalion 19th U.S. Infantry, U.S. Army Signal Corps, Civil War Civilians, and the 75th OVI Headquarters. The OVCWA has taught at many locales, including Manassas, Kennesaw Mountain, Stones River, and Gettysburg National Battlefields.
This isn’t the first time the Darke County Park District has hosted the group, having staged a similar encampment at Shawnee Prairie in July 2012. Units from the organization also participated in the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln Funeral Train in April 2015 at the district’s Tecumseh Trail hub in Gettysburg, Ohio.
For information on upcoming Shawnee Prairie events or other events hosted by the Darke County Park District, call the nature center at 937-548-0165, visit the park website at www.darkecountyparks.org, or send an email to [email protected]