History brought to life at Civil War Days

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
Jimmy Johnson, standing, re-enacts a scene of his great-grandfather, George Washington, who escaped slavery to join the First Kansas Colored Infantry during the Civil War. Participating in the scene with Johnson — part of Humboldt’s Civil War Days event Saturday — were Michael Patton, left, and Kevin Morris.

HUMBOLDT — Large crowds were reminded over the weekend of the trials and tribulations of living in eastern Kansas during the Civil War.
Humboldt’s Civil War Days transformed visitors from current day to the early 1860s, when abolitionists and pro-slave Confederates often found themselves involved in guerrilla attacks on unsuspecting townsfolk.
Humboldt found itself targeted by Confederates twice, barely a month apart in late 1861.
The first raid, on Sept. 8, was considered a nuisance raid. The invaders showed interest in little more than thievery.
But after a group of Union soldiers caught and killed John A. Mathews, who led the raid, Confederates were bent on revenge.
They arrived in Humboldt shortly after dusk on April 14. Able-bodied men were marched to a ravine southwest of town.
With the population under close guard, the invaders set fire to homes and businesses, leaving untouched only local churches and a Masonic center.
There was one blessing amid the chaos. Unlike other raids on communities, the Confederates decided against killing the men it had marched out of town.
Only two shots were fired during the raid, both times at two men who refused to halt when ordered. One of the men, Abel Secrest, was killed.
Bringing the history to life with re-enactments of both raids were members of the Ninth Texas, a group of actors who portray Confederate soldiers at various history events across the country. They were joined by a group of local volunteers, who portrayed Humboldt’s residents during both raids.
The Ninth Texas re-enactors also led a round of military drills and visited with passers-by about life in the Civil War. Their “commander,” Brian Cox, showed the inner workings of a Civil War-era rifle and bayonet.
Also on hand for the day’s activities were “Abraham Lincoln,” — Tom Leahy; and Jimmy Johnson, Kevin Morris and Mike Patton, each of the Kansas City area, who portrayed members of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry.
Johnson regaled audiences with tales of his great-grandfather, George Washington — “Not the one who crossed the Delaware; but rather the one who crossed the frozen Missouri,” Johnson said.
His great-grandfather was an escaped slave from northern Missouri who later joined the 1st Kansas Colored.
Bob Horn played his dulcimer, harmonica and banjo to entertain crowds with songs of that era.
A Union Gala dance capped Saturday’s activities in the Humboldt High School Cafeteria.
Free tours of historically significant sites around Humboldt were the focus of Sunday’s activities.