An article written by one of my pards in the 9th to be run in a Civil War magazine about our September event.
Remembering the 9th Kentucky (US): The 150th Anniversary
On September 24th and 25th, members of Company B, 9th Kentucky (US) met at Old Mulkey Meetinghouse State Park (Tompkinsville, Kentucky) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the formation of the regiment. Based on Todd Watts’ research, the regiment would likely have gathered at the church house in September 1861.
This is consistent with Marcus Woodcock’s journal, which begins:
“It was on a beautiful Thursday evening on the 19th day of September 1861 that I was at a beautiful spot in Monroe County, Kentucky known as Gamaliel.” (Gamaliel is about 10 miles from the meeting house.) (Noe, p. 7) Woodcock goes on to say that he was attending “an humble country school” at which Mr. L. M. Lanford was teacher. In the early pages of the book, Woodcock speaks of the Gamaliel Home Guard moving back and forth between Gamaliel and Tompkinsville. But it is at Tompkinsville that Woodcock makes up his mind to join “the Company”.
“We stopped in town and remained there till after supper, but in the meantime, Capt Hinson’s Company of recruits was paraded through the streets with ‘martial music and flying colors” to give others an opportunity to enlist. Several gay fellows stepped into lines and took the step, and finally I in defiance of urgent remonstration of my best friends, stepped into line from which, strung the path of honor, there is no stepping back.” (Noe, 17) It then appears that the company moved two miles outside of Tompkinsville, which is approximately the distance to Mulkey Meetinghouse.
Some of the modern-day unit came to Old Mulkey Meetinghouse State Park on Thursday to set up camp. On more than one occasion, Dave Brunner, captain of the modern-day 9th Kentucky, remarked about the wonderful accommodations afforded by the Old Mulkey Meetinghouse State Park director, Sheilah Rush. The park had provided a beautiful camping area not far from the meetinghouse.
The actual event began on Saturday morning at 9:00 AM. It was a lovely Kentucky autumn morning with a light fog hanging over the camp. Visitors started lining up at the park gate well before nine. As the visitors came into the park, those who were descendants of the 9th Kentucky regiment were given red, white, and blue lapel ribbons. Some of the descendants had driven a couple hours away to attend this special ceremony, but most were local Monroe County residents.
For Saturday’s morning events, most of the modern-day 9th had dressed in civilian clothing to simulate the men who 150 years ago had gathered to hear the speeches and pleas for enlistment. However before the re-enactment began, Mrs. Rush welcomed the visitors and introduced Captain Brunner, who then had the crowd gather in the church cemetery where Pvt. William J. Emmert (Co. B, 9 Ky Inf USA) is buried. Brunner explained that the modern-day 9th had come to honor men such as Emmert who had signed up to serve their country. It set the tone for the weekend.
Brunner then directed visitors to the front steps of the meeting house. There, Nelson Doyle, portraying Abraham Lincoln pled with the men in the crowd to join the effort to put down the rebellion and preserve the union. This was followed by the writer’s rendition of a period pastor urging the men in his flock to stand up and respond to their country’s call. For the writer, this was a strongly emotional moment as he contemplated how a country pastor must have felt as he saw the men of his flock heading to war.
The pastor’s message was then followed by Todd Watts giving the history of the 9th, from mustering in to mustering out. He highlighted key battles, such as Shiloh, Stones River, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. As Watts told of battle after battle, the visitors, especially the descendants, listened intently to the struggles and accomplishments of the soldiers of the 9th. Several mentioned later they were not aware that the local area had made such a contribution to the cause.
Captain Brunner then asked the men in the crowd to join up. Those who responded were administered the soldier’s oath and were promptly examined by the Company’s surgeon. Saturday morning ended with an initial drill in civilian clothes. Some of the enlisted men did “not know” their left from their right (but they did figure out “hay foot, straw foot”), and when firing by company the newly enlisted modern-day 9th consistently and humorously produced a popcorn-sounding volley.
After mess, the Company voted for Company Commander. Once votes were counted, it became clear that Bud Lawson would be lieutenant. And as the 9th prepared for drills, Todd Watts did a presentation on muskets and rifles which would have been used by the Company. Of special interest was Watts’ explanation of the development of the percussion cap and Minnie ball.
The afternoon drew to a conclusion with the Company performing drills on the manual of arms and “load in 9 times”. Amazingly, the “raw recruits” transformed into an efficient fighting unit, with crisp moves and synchronized firing. The Company was dismissed to mingle with 9th Kentucky descendants and visitors. At camp, everyone (re-enactors and visitors) gathered around a Union blue cake and celebrated the 150th anniversary of the 9th‘s formation. And thus, the first day ended.
Although the Sunday event was scheduled to begin at 9:30 AM, cars started lining up at the gate well before nine. Sunday began with a worship service in the Old Mulkey Meetinghouse. Built in 1805, the meetinghouse is a log structure built in the shape of a cross. This structure has a strong historical significance relative to early church history in the United States. (See http://parks.ky.gov/parks/historics...ault.aspx)
Prior to the writer preaching a sermon from Psalm 27, a trio from the modern-day 9th (David and Jason Brunner, and Harry Dolph) sang “Vacant Chair”. Dave Brunner then told the congregation about Joe Lassus, a member of the 9th, who had passed away several years ago.
(Posted throughout the park were circulars which Joe, before he died, had designed for the 150th anniversary.) It was a sweet, but solemn moment.
After church, the modern-day 9th performed marching and firing demonstrations. While the men were drilling, the ladies in camp prepared a feast, which the modern-day 9th Kentucky family enjoyed on the grounds of the meetinghouse.
As a wonderful finale, Mrs. Rush had coordinated with Chad Comer for the modern-day 9th to march from the Tompkinsville Public Library to the Old Soldiers Cemetery. At the cemetery, Mr. Comer told the story of the old cemetery, which had at one time been called the Tompkinsville National Cemetery.* There at the final resting place of several 9th Kentucky soldiers, the modern-day 9th paid homage with a three volley salute.
For many of the modern-day 9th (including the writer), this event was a strong reminder of why we do what we do. In re-enacting the camaraderie is good. “Burning powder” is a rush. But in the end, we do what we do because someone promised not to forget. And if we are able to help people remember, we have a part in fulfilling this promise. Looking at the faces of the descendents of the 9th, it was evident that the old soldiers of the 9th Kentucky were once more remembered and honored. And in this, we have great satisfaction.
* During the Civil War, Union soldiers from other states were interred here. However, later most of these were exhumed and relocated to the Nashville National Cemetery.
Noe, Kenneth W. ed., A Southern Boy in Blue.