It’s the 150th anniversary of the mid-point of the Civil War and LaGrange will celebrate with a Civil War History Day on Saturday, Aug. 10. Held on the LaGrange County Courthouse lawn and adjacent grounds, activities begin at 7 a.m. and continue until 4 p.m.
Come experience artisans in period costumes, historical reenactments, historical artifacts and memorabilia, food, music, and activities for the entire family. Impressions will be based on actual LaGrange County Civil War soldiers. Admission is free, and all proceeds at food and craftsmen stands go to those creative individuals and organizations for the entertainment and education they provide.
Plans for this event have been in progress for nearly a year, and it is sure to be a commendable experience. In the fall of 2012, the LaGrange County Genealogical Society first began thinking of a civil war-themed community event. Jean Fremion McKibben, historical enthusiast and a Lady of the Grand Army of the Republic, got together with Dalonda Young, then president of the Genealogical Society, to make tentative plans for such a project. Bryan McCoy, president of the LaGrange County Historical Society, was interested in getting involved as well.
“We wanted to do a significant event, and to do it well,” said Fremion-McKibben, explaining that the first hurdle in such a significant community project was funding.
To raise the necessary funds, Young and Fremion-McKibben established the LaGrange County Heritage Initiative (LCHI), a non-profit entity under the umbrella of the LaGrange County Community Foundation (LCCF). “The intent was to give us an avenue with which to apply for grants to fund Civil War History Day (and future endeavors), as well as provide a tax incentive for persons to donate in support of projects and events,” Fremion-McKibben said of the initiative.
The LCHI flourished since being established in the winter of 2013, and it is the sponsor for Civil War History Day (CWHD). Funding has been provided from a variety of sources.
Fremion-McKibben believes that CWHD is a relevant and fun event for any American to attend. “I have a firm belief that all communities should do something to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War,” she said. After all, there were over three million men in service during the Civil War – over 2 percent of the population – and over 700,000 died in battle or from sickness. Many more than that supported the armies directly. “We owe a huge debt to those men who gave their last full measure of devotion to preserve this country we enjoy today, and to free from bondage millions of enslaved men and women. It is important to never forget their sacrifice, most certainly on such a significant anniversary,” she stated.
Fremion-McKibben is a member of the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic and she has several great-granduncles who served in Union regiments, who she honors through this momentous day.
Look for a detailed itinerary in the newspaper next week, and pick up a schedule for your own reference when you arrive at the courthouse on August 10. Many exciting activities are lined up, to take place on the courthouse lawn, in the library, at the gazebo, in the Historical Society Museum, and on the blocks surrounding the courthouse. An extended farmer’s market will accompany the festivities all day long.
Although Fremion-McKibben anticipates every single planned event, she says that one event that is not to be missed is the encampment by the 44th Indiana Historical Organization, which will be set up on the courthouse lawn. “These men and women devote countless hours researching their roles, bringing a true living history program wherever they go,” she noted. The 44th Indiana Historical Organization travels all over the country to experience and participate in Civil War historical reenactments. Fremion-McKibben said she cannot stress enough the importance of such a group, and what they will bring to CWHD. “The encampment came first, and the rest of CWHD has been built in support of it! The 44th represents and impersonates actual LaGrange County men who signed up to serve in Company H of the 44th IN Volunteer Infantry.”
Margaret Hobson, the woman in charge at the enlistment tent, has published a book on the 44th Regiment, which she will have available at her tent. Catch other book signings as well, including that of Cheri Mattox, who wrote The Men of the 100th Indiana Infantry, Co. C, who will have copies of her book available on the courthouse lawn. Joan (Trindle) Stiver of Elkhart, author of the children’s book Door in the Floor: an Underground Railroad Adventure, will sign copies of her book from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the community room at the LaGrange County Public Library. Each of these books is incredibly important to LaGrange’s and Indiana’s role in the Civil War.
In addition to the 44th Indiana Historical Organization, there will be other impersonators, actors, and costumed vendors at Civil War History Day. Marc Satterfield will provide an enthralling acting performance on the Underground Railroad, as well as a slave impression and a discussion of modern freedom. Satterfield has been planning and perfecting his presentation for months, and it is sure to be incredible. Another actor, Jan Mishler, will portray Confederate spy Bell Boyd.
All guests are encouraged, but certainly not required, to arrive in period costume. Participants can go through a mock enlistment for the army, just as brave volunteers from LaGrange would have done during the Civil War.
Even if you don’t arrive in costume, you can feel the vibes of the time period by eating some camp food provided by former Howe Military teacher and Civil War historian Kevin Beuret. Other food will be available from the American Legion, the LaGrange County Council on Aging, Pokagon Longrifles, LaGrange Rotary Club, Jaden Boyd, Next Door Neighbor Deli and Bakery, and LaGrange de Lafayette Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution.
A stroll across the courthouse lawn will reveal countless artistic and historic demonstrations, such as wool spinning, blacksmithing, and walking stick carving. For the kids, pick up a coloring page and crayons at the enlistment tent and then follow the directions to collect an entire historical coloring book.
Civil War History Day is sure to offer education, entertainment, and cool keepsakes to any curious person who wanders through downtown LaGrange on Aug. 10.