Father And Son And Civil War Re-enactments
Farmington Band Director Jim Spillars has been a history buff, in particular American history, most of his life. Now, he is taking his interest one step further by participating in Civil War re-enactments and helping with living history programs.
His 10-year-old son, Jacob, tags along with him and is a drummer in training at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield in Springfield Mo.
“Jacob is as big a history buff as I am,” Spillars said. “He’s very particular. He wants everything to be authentic.”
While he’s been interested in re-enactments for many years, Spillars said he did not see himself being involved as a participant because he is an introvert and usually doesn’t fall in with a group of people he doesn’t know.
“I didn’t think that would happen,” he said. However, through a series of events, he moved from being an observer to a participant.
Jacob was involved in a Junior Ranger program, learning about Civil War history through different national parks. A ranger at Fort Smith National Historic Site told Spillars the park needed volunteers for the artillery crew and asked if he was interested. Spillars said he was and began training to serve on the artillery crew.
His youngest daughter is involved with the Arkansas Historical Society and that opened a door to being connected to Pea Ridge National Military Park.
Over the past two years, Spillars and Jacob have participated in Civil War events at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, Pea Ridge, Wilson’s Creek and Fort Smith.
“It’s so important to recognize the history of this area,” Spillars said. “It’s about the history of Northwest Arkansas and what the people of this area went through and how devastating it was to this area.”
Spillars’ most recent event was to participate in living history exhibits for the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Pea Ridge. The Military Park commemorated the battle on March 8. Roughly 2,000 Confederate soldiers died, compared with 1,384 losses for the Union, according to national park data.
Spillars said he enjoys living history exhibits the most because they are teaching programs. It is an extension of his profession, he noted. He teaches music and being involved with parks gives him an opportunity to teach about the Civil War.
For the Pea Ridge anniversary, Spillars was a member of the park’s volunteer group on the artillery crew. Sometimes, he serves with the 11th Missouri State Guard infantry. Saturday, his job was to pull the lanyard to fire the gun. Exhibits for the Battle of Pea Ridge included Union and Confederate infantry demonstrations and Union artillery demonstrations at Elkhorn Tavern.
Throughout the summer, he volunteers on weekends presenting living history exhibits at Pea Ridge Military Park. He said he continues to learn something new about the Civil War every time he volunteers.
Spillars has ancestors who served on both sides of the Civil War struggle, another reason for his interest in Civil War history. He has been a re-enactor and been involved in living history programs for both Confederate and Union units. From family history, he knows three ancestors served on the Union side and two with the Confederacy.
“We represent both sides and have appropriate Union and Confederate attire,” he said. “We’re privileged to do whatever we can.”
He and Jacob are looking forward to future events together. When Jacob is 16 years old, he will be old enough to train on a cannon crew and he is interested in that, Spillars said. Jacob also will be able to handle weapons when he is older.
Their eventual goal is to attend a cavalry training school and serve on a cavalry unit. Jacob can attend the school with a parent when he is 16 years old. “That is on our bucket list,” Spillars said. “I’d like to learn that some day, especially since I had an ancestor in the cavalry.”
Jacob Spillars, 10, and his father, Jim Spillars (left) of Fayetteville, visited with fellow re-enactors Carlos Valdez, Centerton, and Kevin Miller, Bentonville, during a lull in the action at the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 5. They are in front of Elkhorn Tavern.
Jacob Spillars, 10, enjoys history and going to Civil War re-enactments with his dad, Jim Spillars, band director for Farmington High School.