CIVIL WAR RE-ENACTORS COMING TO DELTA SESQUICENTENNIAL EVENT

By Caitlin Switzer

DELTA-Yes, Keith Lucy does have a day job. It’s just that Lucy’s extracurricular activities are what tend to land him in the limelight–things like  walking from Delta to Olathe in period attire to support a Civil War Sesquicentennial event at the Egyptian Theater in 2013, or using a rare Monday off last week to hold a bake sale in support of this year’s commemorative Civil War re-enactment.

Because 2015 marks the final year of the five-year sesquicentennial celebration, which honors the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, Lucy and the Delta County Colorado Historical Society Committee on the Civil War are planning a final, signature event at Confluence Park and other Delta locations May 8-10.

“In 2013 we held a one-day event,” Lucy recalled. “It was a tremendous success, so we have decided to triple our efforts this year.”

This year, the committee has invited re-enactors to converge at the Confluence for a three-day immersion that is intended to educate, entertain and inspire.

“There will be a Civil War encampment at Confluence Park,” Lucy said, “and we have re-enactors coming from the Front Range. This will be a high-quality event–these re-enactors take their hobby very seriously. They will interact with the public in period costumes and clothing, and they will visit with educators and students in the public schools as well as home-schooled students on Friday. Expect musket drills, Civil War -era music by a regional brass band, even period artillery if all goes as planned, Lucy said.

“We hope everyone will come down and experience the encampment, and gain hands-on experience,” Lucy said. “It’s free to the public, and everything you experience will be a reproduction of something that was actually seen and used during the Civil War.”

Civilian re-enactors coming from Nashville will portray little-known civilian aspects of the War–though details have not yet been confirmed, two possibilities include experts on media from the 1860’s and morticians of that era, Lucy said. Members of the public are not only welcomed, but are encouraged to wear period attire themselves. Those in need of costumes can contact Jodi Ellis-Nolan, a re-enactor who rents attire at very reasonable prices, Lucy said.

“She can get you a wardrobe that will help you get in the mood,” he said.

Friday night’s activities will culminate with a banquet consisting of authentic Civil War fare prepared by local eateries. Civil War Era recipes include, surprisingly, Macaroni and Cheese, Lucy said.

“They also liked pound cake,” he noted, and added that the tickets for the banquet will be $15. Keynote speaker Dr. James Robertson, Professor Emeritus of Virginia Tech, is among the nation’s top 10 Civil War historians, he said.

“We are pleased and fortunate to have Dr. Robertson speak,” Lucy said.

And on Saturday, re-enactors portraying President and Mary Todd Lincoln will attend the Sesquicentennial after spending Friday speaking to schoolchildren and educators.

“On Saturday, there will be a reception and coffee with Mr. Lincoln, probably around 10 a.m.,” Lucy said. “That afternoon, there will be a Victorian Tea hosted by Mary Todd Lincoln, and that evening she will present a one-act play, talking about what her life was like after the assassination.”

Also in attendance will be a re-enactor who specializes in the role of Civil War Chaplain.

“He interprets the role of Chaplain through tasks, such as letters home and ministering to the soldiers,” Lucy said, “He also preaches sermons from the 1860’s verbatim–from a number of denominations, Episcopal, Baptist, Presbyterian. On Sunday, he will visit different churches and re-enact there.”

So far, the committee has raised around $7,000 of the $20,000 they need to put on the event. Much of that was accomplished with sales of a Domino’s discount pizza card that can be used in Montrose or Delta, Lucy said, but locals will have a chance to eat spaghetti for the cause as well.

“We will hold a spaghetti dinner fundraiser in Fellowship Hall at the Delta Methodist Church on Feb. 13,” he said, “starting at 6 p.m. Tickets will be $8 at the door, or you can buy them in advance from Brad Davis at Davis Clothing, 234-8758. If you purchase a ticket for the spaghetti dinner, if you plan to attend the various venues during the sesquicentennial–the banquet, the Lincoln reception, or the tea, you will get a dollar off the ticket price for those.”

As the event draws near, additional volunteers will be needed to pick re-enactors up and drive them to their hotels, he added.

Though putting on a major Civil War Commemorative event takes hard work, Lucy does not appear to mind. And while he probably won’t walk to Olathe in period dress this year, he may ride there on horseback with a group of friends, he said.

“This is a real passion for me,” he said. “Our mission is to educate, both the general public and the education community, about the Civil War in general and about various aspects and components of the War, such as the role of the Territory of Colorado–there were active Civil War engagements here, for example the Battle of Glorieta Pass.”

That battle, which took place March 26-28, 1862, played a decisive role in the War’s outcome, according to the Civil War web site, which aims to raise funds for the preservation of Civil War battlefields. The Battle of Glorieta Pass–in which Federal forces turned back Confederate troops attempting to reach and control Colorado’s gold and silver as well as the terminus of the transcontinental railroad–is commonly referred to as the “Gettysburg of the West.” It was here that Federal forces were finally able to turn back the Southern invasion of New Mexico, notes the site, which also includes a detailed account of the battle by Rio Rancho New Mexico Historian Don Alberts.

“The Battle of Glorieta could then be seen as a clear Union tactical and strategic victory,” Alberts wrote… “The Rebels soon retreated back to Texas, never to return, and the Battle of Glorieta truly represented the high-water mark of the Confederate invasion of Federal territory in the Far West, and, in that context, although much smaller than the more famous eastern battle fought a year later, it can easily be seen as the Gettysburg of the West.”

Locals who know little of the state’s Civil War era history can learn more by attending the Sesquicentennial event in May and interacting with history buffs and experts.

“We hope to generate many conversations,” Keith Lucy said.

To contribute to Sesquicentennial event fundraising efforts, contact the Delta County Historical Society/Museum, 251 Meeker Street, Delta, CO 81416 or call Lucy at 970-433-1650.