Civil War Spectacle

By dhowell - Posted on 03 January 2008

Probably no other event connected with the centennial celebration had such impetus as did the appearance of the 8th Michigan Cavalry which arrived in the village for the demonstration skirmish on July 2. They came on the invitation of Don Limpert of Manchester. He is a member of the organization and one of the state's leading Civil War buffs and researchers.

As Manchester relives its early history it can't brush aside the Civil War. Company B, consisting of about 90 members of the 1st Michigan Infantry, was recruited and departed from Manchester at President Abraham Lincoln's first call for men. This is history and the people who watched the show were cognizant of it. Many had relatives who enlisted and fought in that war.

It was a spectacle of nostalgia with men, women and children decked out in the costumes of the 1860s sitting in chairs and on the grass on the hillside at Carr Park on a day that must have been "handpicked." It was cool but the sun shown bright. There was a soft breeze.

Limpert had arranged to have four teams fire four musket events. These four represented cavalry, artillery, Union Infantry and the Confederate soldiers. They are all members of the North-South Skirmish Association (NSSA).

According to Limpert, the muzzleloaders of the NSSA are required to dress in authentic Civil War uniforms, fire Civil War weapons and generally follow in the footsteps of the men of a century ago.

The original 1,117-man 8th Michigan cavalry left on May 2, 1863 in pursuit of the rebel raider, Brig. Gen. John Morgan. He was captured near New Lisbon, Ohio on July 26, 1863. The original regiment included the great-grandfather and great granduncle of Ray Russell of Rochester, a charter member of the group that came on July 2.

Today's units are organized to take part in skirmishes and other Civil War Centennial observances. A skirmish is a marksmanship contest with pageantry to bring out more vividly than history book could the events of the Civil War. They also aim to promote better relations between the north and south.

The U.S. Army regulations of 1863 are the authority the "new" 8th Cavalry unit uses as its final authority, including the manual of arms.

The 1863 model .58 caliber Springfield muzzle-loading muskets are the firearms.

That was not the last that Manchesterites were to see of the Civil War buffs. The Loomis Battery of the 1st Michigan Light Artillery of Detroit marched in the mile and a quarter long parade July 4th at Carr Park. Some were in original Civil War uniforms. Two Civil War cannons were inspected by curious spectators.

R. C. Sortor and Roger Marrison directed the High School Band in several selections.

The crowd moved over to the south side of the park to listen while a narrator explained how the cannons operated. Then there was silence as the old cannons blasted away into the marshland.