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Battle re-enactors at the ready

The bursts of cannon fire will echo through the streets of Collierville this weekend when 100 Civil War re-enactors descend on the town to imitate history with their brand of “live theater.”

Schilling Farms on Poplar Ave. will be transformed on Sept. 21-22 into a battlefield for a re-enactment of the 1863 Battle of Collierville.

Lee Millar, longtime re-enactor and Captain of the 51st Tennessee Infantry, said this particular battle was first re-enacted in 2009.

The inaugural reproduction of the 149-year-old battle featured 13 cannons, 40 cavalry soldiers and 60 ground explosions to “accent” cannon fire.

This year’s event will feature Union and Confederate infantry, as well as mounted cavalry and six Civil War cannons.

“It will be pretty much like it was back in 1863,” Millar said. “This is right out of the history books.”

There will be one battle taking place at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

“You’ll be able to hear us for miles around,” said Bill Kelsey, past vice president of the BCA and a member of Morton’s Battery reenactment group.

In addition to the re-enactment, spectators will be able to tour the Confederate and Union camps, visit with the soldiers, hear on-going lectures by area historians and authors, see a Civil War doctor performing “surgery” and visit craft and food vendors.

Participants even used historical engineer plans to build an authentic replica of Fort Collierville, similar to the many that guarded the Memphis & Charleston Railroad during the war.

On Saturday night there will be a Civil War Grand Ball featuring the 52nd Regimental String Band performing period 1860s music. Sunday morning will feature a period church service at 10 a.m. which is open to the public.

There will also be a 1860s civilian camp where the public can visit with period-dressed women and children of era.

Millar said those participating in the mock battle began planning days before they arrive. The re-enactors, who reside in Tennessee, Missouri, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama, will meet the morning of the re-enactment to receive their orders.

“We usually have an officer’s meeting to work out the scenarios,” Millar said. “We break the script down to 15 minute increments.”

The Battle of Collierville began on Oct. 11, 1863, when 3,000 Confederate troops under Gen. N. B. Forrest attacked a Union garrison protecting Collierville. The Confederates chased the Union soldiers into their fortifications and seized all supplies.

However, a supply train carrying Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman and 260 of his men soon pulled into the Collierville depot. Fighting ensued and Union commanders ordered reinforcements from nearby Germantown. Confederate troops were soon ordered to withdraw.

The Battle of Collierville Association, along with Main Street Collierville and the Wigfall Greys Sons of Confederate Veterans, is sponsoring the event.

For more information, log onto www.colliervillebattle.org.

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