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Hundreds turn out for Civil War re-enactments at Pyramid Park

  • A Union cannon blasts a smoke ring during Friday's battle at Pyramid State Park.

    A Union cannon blasts a smoke ring during Friday's battle at Pyramid State Park.
    Daniel Herbst photo

  • Confederate soldiers on foot engage in the battle.

    Confederate soldiers on foot engage in the battle.
    Daniel Herbst photo

  • The Confederate Brigade exits the battlefield after the reenactment.

    The Confederate Brigade exits the battlefield after the reenactment.
    Daniel Herbst photo

  • Students see armaments up close following the reenactment.

    Students see armaments up close following the reenactment.
    Daniel Herbst photo

  • Ray Porter of Pinckneyville, portraying a Union officer, talks to students of PCHS English teacher Colby Bigham (R).

    Ray Porter of Pinckneyville, portraying a Union officer, talks to students of PCHS English teacher Colby Bigham (R).
    Daniel Herbst photo

  • Students hear about what a battlefield doctor may have experienced in the Civil War.

    Students hear about what a battlefield doctor may have experienced in the Civil War.
    Daniel Herbst photo

  • A Union soldier discusses some history of southern Illinois involvement on both sides in the Civil War.

    A Union soldier discusses some history of southern Illinois involvement on both sides in the Civil War.
    Daniel Herbst photo

 
BY PETE SPITLER
Spokesman For Civil War Re-Enactments
updated: 4/17/2019 1:08 AM

PINCKNEYVILLE -- The Union and Confederate soldiers had to fight Mother Nature during the real war and it was no different last weekend at Pyramid State Park's Denmark Unit.

What was shaping up to be a well-attended inaugural Civil War re-enactment event was cut short as heavy rain and flooding forced Sunday's activities of the Great Battle Stands of the Civil War to be canceled.

"We gave it our all," said Peter Yurkonis, lieutenant colonel of the 1st Division Cavalry Brigade and one of a hardened group of re-enactors who stuck it out until the morning of the final day. "Parts of the main battlefield were under water and there were legitimate safety concerns in being able to get the Confederates out of their camp if they stayed and any public who was to attend."

Weather made itself a factor throughout the scheduled four-day event, with 50 mph winds on Thursday that ripped canvas and tore down tents. A separate rain event that night forced a scheduled non-scripted skirmish to be postponed until Saturday morning.

Citizens of the surrounding area were then awaked to the sound of Union and Confederate cannon fire starting at 7 a.m. and lasting until about 9:30 a.m. Residents of Pinckneyville, six miles away, reported being able to hear the action.

Even that non-spectator event had repercussions, as Union commander Brig. Gen. Terry Crowder was bucked from his horse during the first Confederate volley and was injured. He was later evaluated at a hospital and returned to the site on Sunday.

The clouds parted for a few hours Saturday afternoon, allowing for several hundred spectators to observe the featured engagement of the day as both armies went at each other in full regalia.

But rain returned in force that night, along with plummeting temperatures and a decision was made around 9 a.m. Sunday to cancel the remaining activities. The armies were scheduled to re-enact the Battle of Belmont (Missouri) at 2 p.m., with a cannon salute to Perry County's 326 Civil War casualties to take place immediately prior to the battle.

As for what's next, both organizers and re-enactors alike are hopeful for a return event next year. Final attendance numbers are still being tabulated and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has not yet given any formal indication of the event's future at Pyramid State Park.

IDNR

Director Colleen Callahan visited the site on Friday, during which roughly 1,400 schoolchildren from across Southern Illinois viewed a skirmish between the two armies and took in various presentations on what life -- and medical science -- was like during the 1860s.

"I would like to do it again next year at a little bit later date for the folks who couldn't attend this year and then go every-other-year," Crowder said on Sunday.

In the re-enacting world, the 229-acre Pyramid Park pasture -- which had been separated into three battlefields for the Great Battle Stands event -- has potential to grow into a great event.

"The site has so much potential," Yurkonis said. "If they let us have it again, we'll be back."