By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
For 11 years, the battle lines have been drawn.
The troops get into position, their guns and cannons blazing over what was once a peaceful and serene Knox County field.
But it’s all a re-enactment — on the 151st anniversary of the first armed conflict with casualties in the state of Kentucky during the Civil War.
And this weekend, the Battle of Barbourville will fire up again.
This Saturday and Sunday’s battle will be the 12th re-enactment of the historic event. The battlefield will be staged at Minton Hickory Farm, located a quarter-mile past Barbourville on KY 225 South. The gates open at 10 a.m. both days, with Saturday’s battle beginning at 2:30 p.m., and Sunday’s battle starting at 2 p.m.
Over those past years, the experience of going back into a pivotal time in Kentucky and the nation’s history has brought thousands of visitors to the hundred acres along the Cumberland River. Many of those visitors come back — to watch the cavalry, infantry and artillery demonstrations, to see the camps set up by Confederate and Union army troops, or to buy items for sale that’s related to the Civil War.
Ron Bowling of Barbourville, who plays a field commander in the battles, says it’s an experience that’s breathtaking to witness.
“When people come here on the third weekend of September, they come for a lot of sights and sounds. They come to step back into 1861 and see what the armies went through. They come for the Civil War camps, the battles that we portray, and the skits we put on. They come here to see history come alive,” Bowling noted.
While many of the elements that make the weekend a must-see for Civil War buffs and students of history remain in place, he pointed out there will be a remembrance of a person who played a major part in the re-enactment.
“That will be a special memorial service for Ray Adkins, the founder of the Battle of Barbourville, who died on July 5, of this year. It’ll be a Civil War period memorial service, called ‘Drinking From the Same Canteen.’ That will be this Saturday,” said Bowling.
Also this Saturday, the Period Ball will be held at night, as will “Night Fire,” featuring cannon fire during the nighttime, and some different presentations of persons involved in the battle. That includes a Civil War character portrayed by a member of Kentucky Chautauqua, part of the Kentucky Humanities Council.
Bowling said, “That would be Johnny Green. He was in the Orphan Brigade. He’ll be here Saturday at 1 p.m.”
According to the Kentucky Humanities Council’s website, Johnny Green was 19 when the Civil War broke out. He was one of the few soldiers in the Orphan Brigade who was alive when the war ended. Soldiers in that brigade were unable to return to their home state of Kentucky until the war was over because they fought for the Confederacy and could be tried for treason during the Civil War.
Portraying Johnny Green in the presentation “An Orphan’s Survival” will be Ethan Sullivan Smith of Cynthiana.
“So there’s a lot more going on than just the battle. That’s why people come back for the Battle of Barbourville,” reported Bowling.
If you’d like more information on this weekend’s events, call Barbourville Tourism at (606) 545-9674, or go to this website: www.battleofbarbourvilleky.com.