PIPESTONE -- Demonstrations on Sutler’s Row, including baseball games and the firing of cannons -- along with several skirmishes between Union and Confederate soldiers -- will be part of two action-packed days this weekend at the Hiawatha Pageant Park on Pipestone’s west side.
The community is hosting its biennial Civil War Days for the 14th time since 1991, and the popular event continues to get bigger and better.
“It’s been getting bigger each year,” says event coordinator Chuck Ness, who heads up a 12-member committee that’s aided by more than 60 volunteers who will be helping prepare for the two big days Saturday and Sunday. “We listen to the public and to our performers’ recommendations as we strive to bring in the best talent that we can.
“We continue to add new programs and replace others. We’re always to open to new ideas and changing our event to offer a broader appeal to the public, but we keep many of the traditional events, too.”
Ness joined the committee in 1998 and was appointed the event coordinator the same year.
“It’s a busy time and a lot of work, but the two-day event is well attended throughout a large area surrounding Pipestone,” he said. “It’s been the only Civil War re-enactment in Minnesota over the past several years. Our two days are actual re-enactments, including battles, and the soldiers and their families portraying what life was like during the Civil War.”
There are several Civil War encampments in Minnesota where soldiers pitch tents, relate stories of their lives as soldiers and offer demonstrations. The re-enactors are authentic to the period, but they do not have battles or portray life to the extent of an actual re-enactment, like the event at Pipestone.
Mock battles happen during Pipestone’s two days --- some popping up spontaneously at different times --- with a planned major battle staged late each afternoon. There are usually about 300 participating soldiers --- both Union and Confederate --- who will be headquartered in tents on the grounds and will “mix it up” from time to time.”
Daryl Duden returns again
“We love coming to Pipestone,” says long-time Civil War re-enactor Daryl Duden of Red Wing. “I have been involved with re-creating Civil War life ever since 1976 and came to Pipestone’s first one in 1991. Pipestone had another event in 1992 and then decided to do it every two years since. The only time I missed was two years ago, when my wife and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary. I am really looking forward to coming back this year.”
Duden, who served as an infantry squad leader as a member of the United States Marines in Vietnam during 1967, has become increasingly fascinated by the Civil War. He continues to seek ways to educate the public about its impact and importance.
“There is so much to learn about the Civil War,” he said. “As a relatively new state in 1858, Minnesota sent 24,000 troops (45 percent of its male population, ages 15-49) to fight in the Civil War beginning in 1861. That doesn’t include Hatch’s Independent Battalion of Cavalry, which stayed in the state the whole time to defend against the Dakota Conflict of 1862.”
Duden will be among a group of 21 who will represent the Second Minnesota Battery, Light Artillery, which served throughout the Western Theatre of the Civil War from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River, including several big-time engagements in Kentucky and Tennessee.
At Pipestone, Duden’s forces will join other Union troops who will be stationed on the top of the hill overlooking the amphitheatre. The Confederate troops, meanwhile, will have their tents in the woods. Duden will play the part of a sergeant, while John Cain --- a long-time colleague, also from Red Wing --- will serve as the group’s lieutenant.
Duden, who says he owns more than 300 books about the Civil War, has traveled many miles and been involved in numerous battle recreations, attending 18-20 events each year. He has been to Gettysburg (Pennsylvania) twice, to Chickamauga (Georgia) twice, and to Shiloh (Tennessee) four times, among the most well-known battlefields.
“To get up at three in the morning to the sounds of the bugle is really something,” he said. “Then marching out to the battlefield and being unable to see the enemy, but hearing them shuffle, is an experience in itself. You know they’re coming.”
While the re-enactments are a “labor of love” for Duden, who retired last year after working for the Red Wing shoe company for 50 years, it’s the whole scenario of the Civil War days that continues to drive his interest.
“So many great strides were made in manufacturing, in medicine and in military efficiency --- out of necessity --- during the Civil War years,” he said. “Our country was divided, but it grew together and advanced greatly because of it.”
Bill Hoskins of Sioux Falls, S.D., who was one of the original founders of Pipestone’s Civil War Days back in 1991 and will again serve as the Union’s commanding officer, agrees with Duden.
“The Civil War was a major event in our history,” he said. “The re-enactment at Pipestone gives the public a chance to learn about what happened and how life was during those days.”
Lincoln’s funeral, role of women soldiers among new programs this year
There will be a presentation by Jeff Gould of Sioux Falls on Lincoln’s funeral, which happened just days after the final surrender by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House in Virginia to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
“Gould will talk about how the Union went into mourning with Lincoln’s assassination and the funeral that followed,” said Ness about one of this year’s new programs, which takes place Saturday (5:30 p.m.) in the Performing Arts Center.
Another new program this year features the role of women as soldiers.
“Women were not allowed to enlist,” noted Ness. “But over 800 did, and they had to keep their identities a secret. When detected, they were usually accused of being spies for the enemy. The program about these women will provide insight into how they affected and aided the war effort.”
As usual, Matthew Brady’s Photography Shop will be set up, a medical surgeon will be on hand and a wide assortment of food and clothing vendors will cover the grounds. A traditional favorite, Dr. Cranium’s root beer, will be served in souvenir mugs.
According to the press release, “the event provides an opportunity for visitors to see and interact with musicians, actors, educators and individuals of the highest quality from the Civil War era.”
Baseball, which became an increasingly popular activity during the Civil War, will also be part of the activities this weekend. Games will be played according to the rules in place during the 1860s, giving the action some different twists.
“There are just a lot of fun things to do and see,” summed up Ness. “We’ll have a program featuring President Lincoln discussing his reasons for the pardons he issued at the Mankato Trials following incidents involving the Minnesota Fifth in the Dakota Conflict.”
The grounds open at 8 a.m. each day, and concerts by the Fifth Regimental Band will be performed various times throughout both days. The grand ball, which Is open to the public, takes place Saturday evening.
Ness anticipates re-enactors coming from as many 17 states and estimates that as many as 3,000 visitors have attended the two days in several of the past years.
“Pipestone does such a great job with this Civil War re-enactment,” concluded Duden. “There are numerous presentations depicting so many facets of life during that time. History has often been overlooked, but it’s really recreated well at Pipestone in a very scenic setting at the Hiawatha Park.”
The complete schedule of events and more information about Civil War days is available on the event’s website, pipestoneminnesota.com/cwd/