Back to Brice's Crossroads

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal




Gray gun smoke and the screams of fighting men will mingle in the air during a 145th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads.
“It’s hard to explain if you haven’t done it,” said Bobby Ross, who will portray a Confederate cavalry commander. “When you watch the Union troops and the Confederate troops come together, it takes your breath away.”
About 3,000 military re-enactors have registered for the event, which will be Friday to Sunday, June 14. In addition, approximately 2,000 civilians will take part in the anniversary, said Edwina Carpenter, curator of the Brice’s Crossroads Visitors Center.
“Besides the military people, we’ll also have demonstrations of Civil War music, cooking, camp life, field hospitals and more,” Carpenter said. “The whole thing is about telling people what life was like in the 1860s.”

Bringing history alive
On June 10, 1864, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and his forces followed the Wire Road – near modern-day Highway 370 – to face Union Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis at Brice’s Crossroads.
At 2 p.m. Saturday, re-enactors will conduct a scripted version of that battle. At the same time on Sunday, June 14, there will be a recreation of the Battle of Tupelo, a brutal fight that took place from July 14-15, 1864.
Both events will be staged on 1,000 acres owned by Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield Commission, a private group dedicated to maintaining the battlefield. In effect, the 145th anniversary re-enactment will take place where history was made.
“It’s a hobby,” said Aubrey Stephens, who’s been re-enacting Civil War battles for about 35 years. “It’s also a way to show history to kids and adults who haven’t been exposed to it except for in classrooms.”
In the fall of 2008, the Cleburne Division of re-enactors sought permission to mark the anniversary. Chuck Tarwater, overall cavalry commander for Cleburne Division, said the group’s goals are simple.
“We want to make the hobby more family-oriented,” he said, “and we want to give the public a better idea of what actually happened during the War Between the States.”

Civilian life
Sutlers, or peddlers, will sell all manner of clothing and utensils available during the 1860s. Ladies in period costume will have a tea, and a Grand Ball with Civil War era music is planned. Sharon Ross said the curious also can learn about family life during the Civil War.
“We try to tell people what’s going on during the battle,” Sharon Ross said. “They see the battle, but they may not know why we’re dressed in a certain way. We’ll be there to answer questions.”
Non-military Civil War re-enactors will sell root beer and fry bread. Historians and authors will put the battles in a larger context.
The sound of pistols, rifles and cannons will boom across the battlefield, as Union and Confederate troops clash. When the fight’s over, the soldiers in blue and gray coats will “rise from the dead” to shake hands and swap stories.
“It’s about bringing history alive,” Stephens said. “We’re here to honor everyone’s ancestors.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.

The Old Days
– What: Re-enactments of the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads and the Battle of Tupelo
– When: Friday to Sunday, June 14
– Where: At and around Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield Site. West of Baldwyn, near the intersection of Lee County roads 231 and 833
– Cost: $3/per person for shuttle from Brice’s Crossroads Visitors Center; $5/per car for parking near battlefield
– Info: (662) 365-3969, www.bricescrossroads.com

Friday schedule:
• 10:30 a.m. – Children’s Discovery Day, $10/per child includes period lunch.
• 7:30 p.m. – Parade through Baldwyn.
• 8:15 p.m. – Officer’s reception, Azalea Court, Baldwyn, with music by Time Was.

Saturday schedule:
• 9 a.m. – Civil War music.
• 10 a.m. – Ladies tea.
• 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Soldiers’ camps open.
• 2 p.m. – Battle of Brice’s Crossroads.
• 3 to 6 p.m. – Soldiers’ camps open.
• 4:30 p.m. – Marking of Confederate graves.
• 8 p.m. – Grand Ball in period attire.

June 12 schedule:
• 10:30 a.m. – Period church service.
• 11:30 to 1 p.m. – Soldiers’ camps open.
• 2 p.m. – Battle of Tupelo.

The more you know …
– Most Civil War re-enactors hold themselves to a high degree of authenticity. A “farby” is someone who’s less than particular. “Far be it from me to criticize,” said Aubrey Stephens, a re-enactor for about 35 years, “but they didn’t wear Nikes in the field.”