Boonville's Civil War re-enactment site full of life after dark

Sunday, June 19, 2011 | 4:29 p.m. CDT; updated 12:00 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 20, 2011
Civil War re-enactors fire off colored rounds for the night fire on Saturday night at the Battle of Boonville re-enactment site.

BOONVILLE — Dark clouds settled over the Willard Avery farm Saturday night as lightning flashed behind them.

As the second day of the Civil War re-enactments in Boonville came to a close with cannon demonstrations, music and dancing, the battle site continued to buzz with activity long after spectators left.

"Once the public is out of the eye, things loosen up," said re-enactor George Hardy.

The tin cups used for coffee in the morning and water throughout the day were filled with wine or set aside in favor of a Budweiser.

Still dressed in his wool pants from the battle, re-enactor Tyler Robey ate an M&Ms Blizzard from Dairy Queen to keep cool. Robey said he was looking forward to his overnight stay at the battle site.

"I love it," he said. "It's better than staying at home — plus, you learn something."

Hardy said that during the evenings, the battleground becomes very social.

"We have formed bonds with these people," he said. "We consider them family."

Often, such re-enactments allow people who see each other just once or twice a year to catch up, said re-enactor Charles Cunningham.

Hardy said most re-enactors do get their sleep, but they will talk, joke and tease one another throughout the evening. Cunningham said the darkness also creates a prime opportunity for friends to play practical jokes on one another.

This atmosphere extends to other re-enactments. Cunningham recalled that at his first national event, soldiers from one camp wandered one by one to the opposite camp, each coming back with a single log. By the next morning, the other camp did not have a single piece of firewood.

Hardy and Cunningham also said that as drinking goes on, those who become a bit too intoxicated are targets for jokes.

They both remember when a group of campers worked together to create a barrier around the tent of a man who had too much to drink. The campers set a picnic table in front of the flaps of his tent and lined the sides and back of the tent with hay bales. When he woke up and tried to leave, he walked directly into the makeshift walls.

Cunningham said everyone woke up early "just to listen to him scream and holler and cuss."

Jeremy Chinn, Cunningham's son-in-law, said another memorable prank involved campers rolling an artillery cannon in front of a tent so that the 3-inch barrel was just feet from the campers inside when they woke up in the morning.

Todd Conner, a re-enactor of more than 20 years, said such shenanigans are not easy to forget.

"We have long memories," he said.

Conner recalled one moment that had nearly the entire battlefield in stitches happened during a brigade drill. A group of soldiers went into their tent to dress in uniform and instead emerged wearing Hawaiian shirts. Just about everyone was hysterical he said. 

Hardy, Cunningham and Chinn said they enjoy the camping and nighttime aspects of re-enactments just as much as the day activities and the battles themselves. The group had no doubt that 10 years from now, they will have plenty to reminisce upon from the events at Boonville.

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