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Civil War re-enactors man the cannons at last year’s battle. This year will be more historically accurate to the Battle of Decatur.
Daily file photo by Jonathan Palmer
Civil War re-enactors man the cannons at last year’s battle. This year will be more historically accurate to the Battle of Decatur.

Civil War enthusiasts to take up fight Labor Day weekend
Re-enactment of Battle of Decatur more historically accurate this year

By Danielle Komis Palmer
dpalmer@decaturdaily.com · 340-2447

If you’ve ever wanted to hop into a time machine and jet back to the past, skip that farfetched idea and instead head to Point Mallard Park in Decatur on Labor Day weekend for an out-of-the-ordinary free event.

There, Civil War re-enactors will brave the heat in authentic wool uniforms to portray the October 1864 Battle of Decatur. The battle, acted out by about 200 local and non-local re-enactors, will feature live horses, cannons, and real gunpowder, and will hold the attention of non-history buffs, said Clay Turner, who organizes the event.

“We encourage all the public to give us a try and try it out at least one time,” Turner said.

Turner, a longtime re-enactor who says it is his “passion and his life,” began a crusade a few years ago to make the 30-year-old Decatur re-enactment more historically accurate.

“It’s different from what it was a few years ago,” he said. “It started nearly 30 years ago as a thing to close out Point Mallard’s season ... (now) I’m actually trying to re-create the battle of Decatur,”

Turner recently opted to change the re-enactment’s name from “September Skirmish” to “The Battle of Decatur,” which is based on a real, three-day battle in which Union soldiers were victorious.

He also eliminated Gen. Joe Wheeler from the battles because Wheeler didn’t fight in the Decatur battle, and added Tennessee native Gen. A.P. Stewart who did fight here.

Miniature Old State Bank

For the first time, re-enactors will battle in front of a miniature version of the Old State Bank building that Turner and other volunteers built.

The building was one of the only buildings left standing after the Decatur battle, which occurred in front of the bank on Bank Street Northeast. The Dancy-Polk house and the McEntire house were also left standing.

“In some ways I’m limited to what I can do at Point Mallard and what material I can do,” that is accurate, Turner said.

Gunboats were likely used in the Battle of Decatur, which is impossible to portray, as well as the two forts that were in the city, he said.

Turner’s attempts at historical accuracy are not just for his benefit, but will also increase the number of participants each year, he predicted. Many participants only like to participate in historically accurate re-enactments.

Along with a mock battle at 2 p.m. Saturday (the historic “Battle of Decatur”) and another at 2 p.m. (a less historical crowd-pleaser in which the Confederate troops will win) on Sunday, there are other events the public might enjoy over the weekend.

Drills and weapons demonstrations, a guided Civil War walking tour beginning at the Old State Bank, a military-style ball with Civil War Era Music, and a ladies tea are some of the activities the public is also invited to attend.

Checking out the re-enactment is a great way to escape from today’s world of cell phones, TV, automobiles and get a sense of what Decatur was like nearly 150 years ago, Turner said. Plus, there’s nothing like watching the live-action battles.

“I guess the best way to look at is it is like watching a live movie,” he said.

If you go

What: Annual Civil War re-enactment “Battle of Decatur”

When: Sept. 1-2, mock battles at 2 p.m. each day

Where: Point Mallard Park, Decatur Event schedule

Saturday

9:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Camps open to public

10:00 a.m. Drills and weapons demonstration

2:00 p.m. Mock battle with cannons

3:30 p.m. Guided Civil War walking tour beginning at the Old State Bank

Dusk-10:30 p.m. Candlelight camp tour

8:00 p.m. Dance with Civil War Era Music

Sept. 2

9:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Camps open to public

9:30 a.m. Officers call

Ladies Tea

Drills and weapon demonstration

2:00 p.m. Mock battle with cannons

3:30 p.m. Troops break camp and depart.

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