Centralia to commemorate 144th anniversary of battle

Thursday, September 25, 2008 | 8:07 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Civil War rises from the history books on Saturday during the 144th anniversary of the Centralia Massacre and Battle of Centralia.

Actors, storytellers and historians will anchor the educational effort at the Centralia Battlefield, where the event occurred on Sept. 27, 1864. The commemoration is scheduled to feature a historical play that will depict some of the events of the massacre and the battle to the tune of contemporary music written by Chris Edwards of Columbia. The music's lyrics are based on the events.


The 144th anniversary of the Centralia massacre and Battle of Centralia will take place at the Centralia Battlefield off Highway Z on Grassland School Road.

The commemoration starts at 2 p.m. and the play is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults and free for children under 12.

The commemoration begins at 2 p.m., and the play will begin at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults and free for children under 12.

"The event is meant to be educational for the whole family," said Jack Chance, an organizer of the commemoration. "I teach the fifth grade at a school in Boone County, and kids at that age are especially intrigued by this kind of history."

The massacre took place when disguised guerrillas attacked and killed 22 unarmed Union soldiers on a train moving through Centralia. The guerrillas sent the train flaming down the tracks from town. The murders were witnessed by residents of the town, and as word of the bloodshed spread, battle plans were drawn.

Unprepared for the numbers and tactics of the guerillas, the Union soldiers suffered more than 120 deaths. Only three guerrillas were reported killed in the battle. Among the survivors were Jesse James and his brother, Frank James, as well as other members of their nefarious outlaw gang.

The learning is not just reserved for grade-school students, though. Troops from today's military will be given strategic lessons on how to deal with this kind of guerrilla warfare, because it represents the tactics of an insurgence in the war in Iraq, Chance said.

"Even in modern warfare, guerrillas engage with troops in a similar way," Chance said. "In 1864, there were the same kind of skirmishes, retreats and unpredictability that we see today."

Historical author Don Gilmore of Columbia, Debbie Goodrich and Loren Humphreys will talk about their works and will be available to give informational accounts.

Historical crafts will also be on hand to illustrate the work of Civil War-era blacksmiths, weavers, doctors and others showcasing actual wartime relics. A barbecue and homemade desserts will round out the entertainment.

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