By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
On the third full weekend of October, a quiet patch of land in northern Laurel County goes back into time, with the sounds, sights and authenticity of the Civil War’s earliest days.
The blue and gray uniforms, the rumble of the cannons, as well as the battles and skirmishes, are about to come alive again.
A slice of Kentucky’s past will be presented this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the 24th reenactment of the Battle of Camp Wildcat.
This weekend’s reenactment honors the 152nd Anniversary of the battle, which originally took place on Oct. 21, 1861, and is held on the original Confederate Encampment Site near Hazel Patch Road.
Friday is School Day, with the encampment site open from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Demonstrations of various aspects of life and war during the span of the Civil War’s span — from 1861 to 1865 — will be presented Friday for schoolchildren.
Known as “Living History Day,” the demonstrations give students a chance to participate in “hands-on” exhibits and listen to first-person impersonators describe Civil War life and times. A skirmish will also be held on the battlefield for the schoolchildren to watch and observe.
The Laurel Home Guard, who hosts the annual reenactment, stated around 1,700 children from southeastern and eastern Kentucky attended last year’s event. They added the Battle of Camp Wildcat has been ranked number one in reenactments, according to the last statewide evaluation.
This Saturday and Sunday, the camps will be open to the public from both days, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
During that period, President Abraham Lincoln and Union General Robert E. Lee will give talks, while military, medical and living history demonstrations will be presented on the grounds.
Visitors can visit the stores operated by the sutlers, a civilian merchant who sells provisions to an army in the field, in camp, or in quarters.
The Battle of Camp Wildcat’s website pointed out, “The sutler sold wares from the back of a wagon or a temporary tent, allowing them to travel along with an army or to remote military outposts. Sutler’s wagons were associated with the military, while chuck wagons served a similar purpose for civilian wagon trains and outposts.”
Highlighting the day for visitors this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. is the reenactment of the Battle of Camp Wildcat, on the original bivouac of the Confederate forces.
Sunday’s public events include a period church service at 10 a.m.
At 10:30 a.m., those wanting to attend the memorial service at the original battle site atop Wildcat Mountain will begin their trek up to the site.
The memorial service — located two miles away from the main site, on a gravel road — starts at 11 a.m.
For those who like shopping or trade items, the annual “Swap, Shop and Trade Meet” takes place at 11 a.m., at the main site. The meet is located at the tent on the right side of the Barn.
More medical demonstrations, Cavalry competition, and another chance to talk with General Lee and President Lincoln get underway from noon to just after 1:30 p.m. Then at 2 p.m. the reenactment of the Battle of London begins.
While the event is free and is open to the public this Saturday and Sunday, the Laurel Home Guard asks for donations from those who attend.
To get to the battlefield, go on I-75 to Exit 49 (the Livingston exit) and turn east on Ky. 909. When you get to U.S. 25, turn south, or right. The road to the battlefield, Hazel Patch Road, is on the left, and has signs to help get you there. The reenactment is about a half-mile up the road, before you cross the railroad tracks.
The complete schedule of this weekend’s event can be found by going to the Camp Wildcat website at www.wildcatreenactment.com. You can also “Like” them at Camp Wildcat’s Facebook page.
In addition, information on the reenactment of the Battle of Camp Wildcat is available at the London-Laurel County Tourist Commission’s office and tourist center at 606-878-6900, or 1-800-348-0095.
The center is located at 140 Faith Assembly Church Road, off Exit 41 of I-75.