BOONVILLE — In the sweltering hot spell of the afternoon sun, the rhythm of battle drums played in harmony with the tune "Yankee Doodle" as a squad of re-enacting soldiers fully clad in dark blue single-breasted wool Union uniforms marched toward the battlefield.
Contrary to the muggy afternoon, Saturday morning featured strong wind gusts causing large trees to sway violently and tents to lift off the ground. Rain or shine, the re-enactment of the Battle of Boonville was going to happen.
“What’s the deal with the rain?” Col. Mike Williams asked. He was the leader of the Confederate troops.
“It wasn’t in the weather forecast,” Williams said jokingly, having to make modern references despite his intent and goal to accurately portray and perform a historical character.
Half a mile away from the Union camp, one could hear the commands of Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon giving orders to the Union infantry.
“We lose today, win tomorrow,” Lyon said, whose character was brought to life by Stan Prater. He made sure that housekeeping issues that pertained to water, straw and firewood were not neglected.
The tents ranged from large Civil War canvas structures for higher-ranking officers to the “dog” tents for soldiers, all in the traditional tan color. The faint aroma of beans and biscuits and gravy penetrated the air between the tents. Smoke lingered from dug-out fire pits, the traces of campfires before the morning rain.
The units treated each other like family, regardless of uniform color.
“My family is all of us, ” said Mark Keith, otherwise known as Tic-Tac. Keith said all the re-enactors were like an extended family.
With 25 years of Civil War re-enacting under his belt, Keith said he first became interested in the Civil War when he was told to do a book report in junior high. He pulled out the skinniest book in the library; of course, it was about the Civil War.
Subsequently, he developed a fascination in collecting Civil War items such as guns, swords, pistols, buttons and coins. His fascination eventually led him to the hobby that has now become a huge part of his life: re-enacting the Civil War.
Keith revealed he has “cheated” over the years on fully and accurately staging life and times during the Civil War. He pleaded guilty to having a cot in his tent instead of sleeping on the ground as real Civil War soldiers did. He stealthily keeps it covered up with thick blankets and closes the flaps to his tent.
Joseph Lockwood, 21, and his brother Carl Lockwood, 17, have been re-enacting Civil War battles for five years.
Carl Lockwood became interested in the Civil War when he watched the Battle of Pilot Knob re-enactment when he was 12 years old and wanted to be part of the front-line action.
“He loved the big booms,” Joseph Lockwood said.
Later, a family friend introduced them to Capt. Randy Baehr, a Civil War re-enactor who nurtured the brothers' interest in re-enacting. On Saturday, he was also the leader of the artillery.
At 10 a.m., when the battery moved their 21 guns and 20 cannons onto the battlefield, the Lockwood brothers were waiting to rout the Confederate Army.