By Kerry Crutcher
In collaboration with David Chaltas
There have been thousands of reenactments over the years. For those who love history, heritage, and the American legacy, they offer a brief glimpse into the past.
These events take a great deal of planning, meetings, and work.
Behind the scenes are those dedicated in offering not only a reenactment, but living historians, demonstrations, and relics of a bygone era.
Such is the annual event held at Brashearville Village, Cornettsville, Kentucky.
The 2021 Battle of Leatherwood reenactment was multi-faceted.
It was educational, entertaining, and promoted a sense of history, as it takes place on the site of an actual Civil War skirmish, and the location of a salt works, general store and post office established several decades prior to the Civil War.
The salt works began in 1835 and lasted until destroyed by a flood in 1892. The grounds are very beautiful, and have numerous picturesque buildings. Some of the structures are more than two hundred years old, some are younger, and some were built on the site. Each is unique. We have an old, hewed log cabin set up as a residence; one is set up as a school, a sawed log building is set up as a residence, we have a 200-year-old barn, a hewed log gift shop of undetermined age, a hewed log chicken house, a smoke house, and recently built a shed for salt kettles and framed a Porta-Potty as an outhouse.
That’s a lot of buildings. We are currently moving a two-story hewed log house with a dog trot, built after 1816. We have built a General Store, which incorporates parts of a nearby authentic general store, and we built a beautiful cut-stone blacksmith shop. We also have a swinging bridge. They were once common in the area prior to road construction on the other side of the river, but are rare now.
Our reenactment had fine weather all three days, and each day was better than the previous. We take a lot of pride in our Education Day/Living History day. We have many demonstrations of old-time processes to let the kids see how our ancestors lived. We also had several personas lecturing, for a total of seventeen stations. Schools from three counties attended, and the students had more time than usual at each station.
They loved it. After visiting the stations, they went across the bridge for food and souvenirs.
Everyone enjoys the demonstrations of our presenters. I don’t know who enjoys it more- our demonstrators or the spectators. Douglas Whiteraven had a display of Native American Arts-jewelry, flutes, and other items.
This provided a rare look into lifestyles of a vanished era. He made a board of the history of tribes participating in the Civil War, which helped explain their role.
All others were of interest. Everyone’s favorite musician, Steve Ball, instructed the kids “Goober Peas” and played period music throughout the weekend. Juney Fields had a flag display and lectured about Jefferson Davis. Greg Bentley had a period camp and produced breakfast for the reenactors. Ancil Davenport portrayed Abe Lincoln, and posed for many photographs. Jimmy Haynes made lye soap. Nancy Taulbee and Anita Holland had an open-air school for kids. Brenda Taulbee portrayed a nurse, and Paul Taulbee portrayed Robert S. Brashear, the owner of the salt works. He discussed the business, production of salt, marketing, and how the war affected his business.
Jim Bay and Jessica Durham discussed and demonstrated a Williams gun, a rare cannon used during the war. General Lee had a station in front of a period cabin, and lectured there. He looked very appropriate in that setting. He held the kids attention with his stories.
Jo Ann Orborski and her sister Susan had an outstand presentation spinning wool and flax, and weaving them on a loom. Early people in this area made their thread, then their fabric, and their bedding and their clothes.
The sisters gave a remarkable and excellent demonstration of these processes. Their husbands Carl and Rick assisted. It was amazing how much work was involved to produce fabric.
The blacksmiths are always into something, and this day was no exception. They made nails and showed various products, sold small souvenirs, as well as having a raffle for a tomahawk and knife, display case, and sheath. The winners of those received very nice items.
Susan Hull had a table of herbal medicine, the predecessor of modern medicine.
She had several plants and discussed the uses of each. Many plants are found in the area, and the old people knew of them, and their uses.
After visiting these stations, and looking at the sutler’s wares and having lunch, the kids got on the buses and returned to school. They had a memorable and enjoyable day, which they could talk about later.
Several of these people demonstrated throughout the weekend. The ladies had a tea on Saturday, conducted by Nancy Taulbee. They had food, music, and speakers and had a fun time. They held a drawing for door prizes, which is a favorite thing of everyone.
A battle commenced at 2 P.M., as the opposing sides shot it out with each other. Union cannons fired first, and the Confederate cannons replied. Soldiers fired on each other until the conclusion of the battle. The Union won.
The Confederates had a remarkable cavalry, with a horse that could turn on a dime, and was accustomed to gunfire and cannons.
It was amazing. Wendell, the rider obviously was very experienced.
He and his wife stayed in a cabin, and the horse had a pasture for grazing. They added a lot to the event.
Our Sunday church service had two ministers, Juney Fields and Rick King, who shared the pulpit. We had a good service with music provided by Steve Ball, and had coffee and donuts afterwards.
We held another battle at 2 P.M..
The people who attended church turned out to shoot at each other. The horse stole the show again, and the cannons roared, the muskets fired, and troops maneuvered back and forth, until eventually the Confederates won.
The blacksmiths held a drawing for their tomahawk and knife during the salute, and the winners received nice items, much more valuable than the price of their tickets.
Everyone reluctantly headed for home at the conclusion of the service, and would have to wait until next year or another field to see their friends again. For more information about the annual event and how YOU can participate, go to the following link: Battle Of Leatherwood Home Page