Re-enactors with the Louisiana State Militia’s 10th Brigade performed infantry drills, rifle demonstrations, held history talks and re-enacted scenes from camp life Oct. 18-19 in honor of the 151st anniversary of the Civil War skirmish that was fought on the then-campus of Centenary College in Jackson.
“Life as a militia soldier in the state army prior to 1860 was more ceremonial than anything,” said Captain Chip Landry with the 10th Brigade re-enactment group.
Landry said the militia troops were considered “crack troops” that would train and practice drills daily but could stand up to any well-trained armies, though not as disciplined.
All parishes at the time did not have a militia brigade; some had a home guard unit instead, Landry said.
“The militia soldiers didn’t have their own uniforms and would wear what they could salvage off the dead bodies of the Confederates and federals,” Landry explained. “Varied articles of clothing were typical of the militia soldiers.”
Following battles, the militia men would pick up weapons, cannons, rifles, leather goods, hats and even boots, Landry said.
“These men would literally sit beside dead corpses, hold their feet up and if the sizes were right, take the boots right off the dead and keep for themselves,” Landry said.
Landry and members of the 10th Brigade explained different uses of weapons such as bayonets and performed skirmish lines used in battles of the militia troops.
Kepi hats, like the one worn on re-enactor David Martin during the re-enactment, were often worn by the militia, but were not utilitarian in purpose.
“Their faces and necks would get sunburnt. The hats offered no protection from the rain,” Landry said.
Landry, along with William Manning, of Jefferson; Keith Strohpaul, of Slaughter; and Daniel Wilcox, of St. Francisville, are part of a 30-man roster who travel to re-enactment demonstrations statewide.
The Battle of Jackson demonstrations were more about camp life and lives of the militia groups that fought before the skirmish in Jackson actually took place in August 1863.
What is known as the Battle of Jackson occurred less than a month after the fall of Port Hudson and Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg, according to a Cententary State Historic Site monument.
A federal detachment of about 300 to 500 men came to Centenary College to recruit black soldiers for the Union Corps D’Afrique.
The Union force at that time was commanded by Lt. Moore Hanham.
The monument states that on Aug. 3, 1863, Hanham was alerted by local residents that a Confederate force was in the area, and he responded by ordering his command unit to form a defensive line north to south along College Street with cavalry units and the Corps D’Afrique defending the campus.
The Centenary monument, which goes into greater detail, states: “On the evening of Aug. 3, 1863, a 500 Confederate force commanded by Col. John L. Logan, and made up of Arkansas infantry, Tennessee cavalry and Mississippi battalion units, approached the northwest by the Jackson-Woodville Road … ”
The Confederates overwhelmed the Union pickets and attacked Hanham’s line in the setting sun, the historical marker states.
The battle of Jackson ensued.
To learn more about what is known as the Battle of Jackson, visit Centenary State Historic Site, 3522 College St. in Jackson.