Reenactor to return after 50 years
Mary Beth Sallee
Hart Co. News-Herald
It was 50 years ago when northern Kentucky native Geoff Walden and his twin brother, Greg, learned of the Civil War Days reenactment in Hart County.
Although Civil War buffs, the brothers had never heard of Civil War reenacting until 1973 when a local newspaper carried a small story about the upcoming reenactment in Munfordville. As young high school students, they wrote a letter to the Munfordville mayor to see if they could participate.
“We ended up getting a reply from a local reenacting coordinator who told us to buy gray work clothes at J.C. Penney, wear old boots, and come on down,” Geoff said. “We got our gray shirts and pants, old boots, woolen blankets for blanket rolls, and found some leather belts and cartridge boxes. We showed up in time for the Sunday battle and were invited to join the ranks of the 4th Kentucky Infantry reenacting unit out of Somerset.”
The unit that Geoff and Greg just happened to fall in with was the 4th Kentucky Infantry CSA, a unit that grew to be Kentucky’s largest Civil War reenactment unit and was named Kentucky’s Official Confederate Reenactment Unit by Governor Wallace Wilkinson. The 4th Kentucky is still active today.
The 1973 reenactment was an entirely new experience for Geoff.
“I was experienced in safely loading and firing my musket, but I had never marched around in formation or anything like that,” he said. “It was exciting to see and hear the full-scale cannons firing and to stand in the ranks and do volley firing as part of a unit. Real Civil War cannons and massed muskets put out a lot of smoke and make a lot of noise, and that was something that I hadn’t witnessed before.”
For Geoff, getting to participate in his first reenactment alongside his brother was surreal.
“Being twins, we were (and are) close, and we were used to doing most activities together,” Geoff explained. “One thing I found out, though – I didn’t even know how to do the Civil War manual of arms, and I had to learn on the spot, but I saw that he already knew how, and I wondered when he had learned.”
Geoff still has the original gray shirt that he wore at the Munfordville reenactment 50 years ago, as well as the medal that was issued to participants.
The reenactment in 1973 was just the beginning of a long experience in Civil War reenacting for Geoff. He participated in the Munfordville reenactment a couple more times in the mid-1970s. Geoff was active in Civil War reenacting from 1973-1997 and participated in re-enactments from Kentucky to Virginia and Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan, and as far as Louisiana and Texas.
“The most memorable reenactments for me were the events commemorating the 125th anniversary of the war, from 1986-1990,” Geoff shared. “This was the first time such large numbers of reenactors had gathered, like 10,000 plus at Gettysburg, and I participated in major events at Manassas, Shiloh, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Spotsylvania, Atlanta, Appomattox, and other battle sites.”
Geoff participated in Civil War reenactments for a total of 25 years. Greg is still a member of the 4th Kentucky Infantry.
Although Geoff won’t be participating in this year’s Civil War Days in Munfordville, he looks forward to visiting and watching this year’s reenactment on Saturday, September 9.
“Saturday will be exactly 50 years from the time I first fell into the ranks and participated in a battle reenactment, and I hope to be there on the same spot,” Goeff said. “I hope to get the opportunity to visit Fort Craig, because that’s where the reenactment was held back in those days.”
A full list of events for this year’s Civil War Days/Battles for the Bridge weekend can be found by visiting the Civil War Days website at https://hartcountykycivilwardays.com.