By Nicole Tull
Mansfield State Historic Site held their annual Nighttime Battlefield Tours Saturday, October 23. DeSoto Sherriff and DeSoto Fire District 8 personnel were on site as a service to the community. The event started in 1994 when John House was the historic site manager. John is still involved as a reenactor tour guide. Scott Dearman is the current site manager and he too dressed in period clothing serving as a tour guide. There were three employees and twenty-five volunteers working to make this event possible.
Groups of twenty-five were assembled and appointed a guide to take them through the walking tour on the battlefield grounds. The tour guide explained the grim scenario of what might have taken place on the evening of April 8, 1864, as the Battle of Mansfield would have just ended.
He then stepped into character as Hiram Driskell and led the group into the wooded area. Soldiers and the Provost Marshall approached the group looking for any contraband and Yankees. Unfortunately, a Yankee had joined with the group and was taken away where he was dealt with. The soldiers fired their antique muskets and the Yankee fell. Special precautions are taken to ensure the safety of actors and observers in any reenactment, but it is very believable as the actors are passionate about their historic representation.
The group witnessed several scenes of what would have been necessary to attend to the wounded and dead. An embalmer prepared a body in a wooden coffin. Next was a group of officers planning the next day as a soldier approached them with news. Further still the group saw a battlefield surgeon trying to salvage a bullet ridden leg to no avail. Amputation was necessary, and the patient fainted from shock.
The last scene was a father burying his dead sons as his daughter swept over the graves in her flowy antebellum dress mourning their loss. The group felt as they were part of a story book coming to life.
Even though the tour only lasted about 30 minutes, the history learned about the city’s participation in the War Between the States will be a lasting impression in each person that witnessed it.
Two sisters from Abilene, Texas came over specially for the event. They yearned to know about the history concerning a long departed relative that fought on the very grounds the tour took place. They were glad to come and satisfy their curiosity by taking the tour.
There is much information available in the museum during open hours for anyone wanting to learn more about Mansfield’s Battle or the Civil War in general.