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1/19/2001 - Reenactment
Depicts Historic Civil War Battle
Between 150 and 200 reenactors in infantry, cavalry, and artillery dress battled the elements and each other as north and south clashed again at the fourth annual Battle of Hodge Oak near Chatfield Jan. 12-14. Sponsored by the local Sons of Confederate Veterans, J. L. Halbert Camp No. 359, spectators and participants had a chance to experience life during the period from 1861 to 1865.
Friday's activities at the campsite on the Jones farm near Chatfield included living history demonstrations and lectures to students from Rice High School and the Robert E. Lee Academy of Corsicana. Reenactors Norman Stubbs, Ron Matthews, Rob Jones, and John Carr discussed various aspects of the war between the states and members of the Val Verde Artillery battery demonstrated loading and firing of a 12-pound mountain howitzer for the students.
Also included in Friday's activities was an opportunity to view selected documents from the Pearce Civil War Documents Collection at Navarro College. Dr. Darrell Beauchamp and his staff displayed documents and letters from such Civil War notables as Senator Louis Wigfall, General John Bell Hood, General Robert E. Lee, Presidents Davis and Lincoln, and the diary of General Joshua Chamberlin. Also on display was a sword made at the blacksmith at Chatfield. Beauchamp and his staff also had documents for viewing Saturday at The Cook Arts, Science and Technology Center on the Navarro College campus.
Confederate Sister Association member Dana Stubbs served as tour guide Saturday for participants who wished to visit Civil War sites in Navarro County including the courthouse, Oakwood Cemetery where over 500 Confederate veterans are buried, Pioneer Village with its living history activities titled Life on the Home front, and The Cook AST Center for a viewing of the Pearce Collection.
Artillery fire signaled the opening for both Saturday and Sunday's reenactments of the battles which saw infantry charges, cavalry forays, and artillery bombardments. The battles were held near the antebellum home of Captain Robert Hodge built in 1854. Spectators lined the road to view the activities. Also on hand were sutlers, merchants who had the "latest" fashions and equipment for sale to participants and reenactors, a photographer taking pictures of the battle and participants, and a medical tent set up to provide the " latest" medical treatment for casualties. Sunday's activities included an early morning cavalry competition and an afternoon battle which again featured infantry, cavalry, and artillery action. At the conclusion of each day's battle, reenactor Rob Jones of Chatfield recreated Confederate General J. O. Shelby's "Who Will Go With Me to Mexico?" speech. The speech is based on an actual event that occurred in June 1865, at the camp of Shelby and Confederate soldiers who were camped on the banks of Chamber's Creek near Chatfield. According to local historians, these were the last Confederate troops in the field who had not surrendered to Union forces. Many of the soldiers did follow Shelby to Mexico while others did return to their homes to face reconstruction. A catered banquet was followed by the introduction of special guests including former national commander-in-chief of the SCV Peter Orlebeke; Paul Gramblin, commander of the Army of the trans-Mississippi division; Deene Sweeny, commander of the Texas division, SCV; first lieutenant commander of the Texas division, Steve Lucas; and second lieutenant commander, Texas division, Steve Von Roeder. At the conclusion of these activities, the Chatfield Community Center was filled with music and dancing as Time Was, a dulcimer band from Fort Worth, played reels, waltzes and polkas for the enjoyment of the participants.
From Staff Reports
"Please don't cut off my leg," pleaded the young boy in the gray uniform lying on the table. The surgeon, his apron splattered with blood and a pile of arms and legs sprawled at his feet, seemed to ignore the boy's cries. "Hold him down," he barked to the orderlies as cannon fire echoed outside the hospital tent.
Such was one of the many realistic scenes which greeted spectators Jan. 12-13 at the fifth annual Battle of Hodge Oaks Plantation Civil War reenactment at Chatfield in northeastern Navarro County. The reenactment which is held the second full weekend of every January seeks to show what life was like for the hundreds of thousands of northern and southern men who fought the American Civil War.
"Of course, spectators like to see the cavalry charges and roaring cannons, but we like to also show them what was the real effect of war," said Confederate surgeon major Doug Garnett, a Paris EMT in real life. As he does for reenactments all over Texas, Garnett set up his hospital tent and period surgical equipment for the entire three-day Chatfield event. He said school students in particular were fascinated by the sometimes primitive conditions under which wartime medicine was practiced.
Hundreds of students from three-area school districts toured the Civil War hospital and other outdoor military exhibits at the plantation site Jan. 11, according to Howard R. Green of Rice, 2002 event coordinator. They were treated to demonstrations by artillery, cavalry and infantry troops from the Val Verde Battery, 0.M. Roberts Battery, 9th Texas Artillery, 12th Texas Cavalry, and the 6th U.S. Regiment. Students also learned something of the history of the area and the part Navarro County played in the war effort for the Confederacy.
They were shown the site of a plant manufacturing sabers for the Confederate Army and the 142-year-old house built by Capt. Robert Hodge on his two-square mile Hodge Oaks Plantation. They also learned about Maj. Gen. J.O. "Jo" Shelby.
Shelby commanded the last Confederate unit in existence in any of the Confederate states when he came to Chatfield in June 1865, almost two months after Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered in Virginia. He camped his force south of Hodge Oaks Plantation and stayed in the original ante-bellum home as a guest of Capt. Hodge. In what has become known as "The Last Review of the Confederacy," Shelby assembled his men for the final time for a military inspection at which he would tell them that the war was over.
As he stood in the stirrups, he removed his plumed hat and declared, "I shall never surrender; I will go to Mexico." When Shelby then asked, "Who will join me in Mexico," he was answered by hundreds of his men shouting that they would go with him. The 1960s John Wayne movie, "The Undefeated," is loosely based on the Shelby experience that began at Chatfield.
The recreation of "The Last Review of the Confederacy" proved to be one of the highlights of activities Jan. 12-13, according to Green. "All the reenactors really like the ceremony because it reenacts a real event that brought the war between the states to an end. Because there were so few actual battles in Texas, we are real lucky to have an important historical event like Shelby's review to be part of our reenactment," he said.
A record number of almost 200 reenactors from 14 units participated in this year's Battle of Hodge Oaks Plantation activities. They came from all over Texas and from Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, Green said. "The success of our event comes from a good location and the importance of the site to Shelby's review," he said. "I think it will just keep growing."
Hundreds of spectators were treated to battles showing the tactics of the period. A number of living history demonstrations were made available to the public showing how soldiers and civilians lived. Pioneer Village and the Pearce Civil War Documents Collection in Corsicana also were open on their regular schedules to accommodate visitors wanting to know more about the period.
As has been the case for the last four years, the Battle of Hodge Oaks Plantation is sponsored by the J. L. Halbert Camp No. 359, Sons of Confederate Veterans of Corsicana. Major support this year also was provided by the Parson's Dragoons 12th Texas Cavalry, a reenactment unit based in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
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