|Wed, Sep 17, 2014 11:38 AM
|Issue of September 10, 2014
July 17, 2013 | 09:30 AM
It was a perfect day for a battle.
The weather was not unbearably hot, as is often the case with the Battle of Corydon re-enactment, and a nice, sometimes stiff, breeze blew through Hayswood Nature Reserve making it comfortable for the many visitors who came out in droves Saturday afternoon to take in all of the sights and sounds of Civil War-era life at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Corydon.
Jim Epperson, executive director of the Harrison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said it was definitely the largest crowd he has seen at the event.
"I think this is the best weather we've had since I've been around here and quite possibly ever," Rand Heazlitt, the newly-hired Harrison County Parks director, said.
At about 4 p.m., the Home Guard soldiers began to march onto the battlefield, amid cheers from the audience, to set up a defense line from the invading confederates led by Gen. John Hunt Morgan.
Shortly thereafter, the entire valley shook with the firing of two confederate cannons, and the battle commenced.
The Home Guard fought valiantly but lost a couple soldiers throughout the skirmish before retreating.
Narrator Ed Runden said it took two men to carry out a wounded soldier so it was actually better to wound the enemy than kill them.
After about 30 minutes of fighting, the Home Guard surrendered to Morgan and his men.
Attendees could do much more this year than the usual listening and watching cannon and musket fire during the battle re-enactment. Multiple tents were set up with a variety of unique collectors items for sale for people of all ages, and a few demonstration booths also drew the attention of the event-goers.
Vendors reported a slow start but fairly strong sales as the crowd grew closer to the battle start time.
The most popular booth was that of Regimental embalming surgeon Capt. C.B. Malone, bloody hands and all. Malone's display included a dummy-soldier with a bullet wound and included an embalmer's sign that read "We bury 'em deep," "Our customers never complain" and "Satisfaction guaranteed."
Another booth called Harper's Weekly displayed charcoal drawings from past battles, including the Civil War. Jim Hoffmann played the part of Theodore Davis, special artist for Harper's Weekly, and said since the photos came out weeks after the battle had ended, everyone already knew of the victor but still wanted to see photos.
Also before the battle, a re-enactor portraying President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech detailing his life, including his time in Indiana. Following Lincoln was "The Great Dissenter" Justice John Marshall Harlan, portrayed by Edward B. Smith.
Harlan's reputation as a U.S. Supreme Court justice is one of championing equal rights for African-Americans after the Civil War. He stood alone in dissent of the court's ruling in the famous Plessy v. Ferguson case, which upheld the constitutionality of segregation. Harlan, a former slave owner, wrote: "But in the view of the constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law."
Shortly before the battle began, Les Smith of Laconia led a demonstration of a Gatling gun. The gun is one of the best known early rapid-fire weapons and a forerunner of the modern machine gun. It was used by Union forces during the Civil War.
The 150th anniversary event also included a raid by Morgan's men on downtown Corydon Saturday at noon, a military ball, various other demonstrations and another battle re-enactment Sunday afternoon.
Two exhibits, "Faces of Lincoln" and "My Brother, My Enemy," were set up in downtown Corydon.
The Lincoln exhibit included a model of the Battle of Corydon which made it real powerful, organizer Karen Schwartz said. She said hundreds of folks came through to visit the exhibit.