Fa­ther And Son And Civil War Re-en­act­ments

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kutter

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...


Ja­cob Spil­lars, 10, en­joys his­tory and go­ing to Civil War re-en­act­ments with his dad, Jim Spil­lars, band di­rec­tor for Farm­ing­ton High School.

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