Civil War re-enacters bring history to life in Gladstone

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GLADSTONE, Mo. -- An armed service ceremony in Gladstone on Saturday extended past recent conflicts. Six Civil War veterans and one from the War of 1812 are buried in the Big Shoals cemetery.

Saturday's tribute included a rifle salute and wreaths laid on historic graves.

"A lot of history is just a series of fascinating stories, and when you start looking into them, you make these really amazing personal connections to what was happening in the past, what was happening today, and get a better sense of what this area used to be like," Erica White, Atkins-Johnson Museum manager said. "A lot of times people think they have to go on road trips to go find history, and a lot of it is right here in our back yard."

The historic cemetery sits about 1000 feet from the Atkins-Johnson farm, which was built in the early 1800s.

At that same farmstead, a group of history buffs set up camp. Civil War re-enacters will be there all weekend to share their passion for history.

In 1861, the day would've started early for the Clay County militia under the Missouri State Guard.

After role call and a hearty breakfast built over an open fire, the troops might clean their rifles.

Re-enacter Jack Teegarden had a rifle from the 1800s, and at one point, was likely aimed at Confederate soldiers.

The authenticity of the camp is important to those who preserve its early American tradition. Early in the conflict, women and children might have joined the men to support the troops as they trained.

Later, many of those women would struggle to maintain homes and farms if their husbands did not return from the war.

"These were everyday men. These were men both North and South who left home, they spent four years in a conflict, a lot of them never returned," Cpt. Howard Rollins with the Civil War re-enactment unit said.

The story of the 3rd Missouri Infantry is a sad one. By the end of 1861, it was called into service for the Confederacy. There were many casualties.

"By '64, they fight in the Atlanta campaign. Once Atlanta's done, they're put in Hood's army that marches north to Franklin, where the Missouri brigade itself suffered just over 60 percent casualties of the men that was left," Rollins said.

The number of lives sacrificed in the war is one reason this small group takes pride in keeping their memory and struggle alive.

"It's important just to be able to teach, and to show people, you know, this was part of our American history," Rollins said. "This happened, men lost their lives both sides, but at the end of the day we're all Americans still."

The camp will remain at the Atkins-Johnson farm all weekend. The public is welcome to view the encampment free of charge.