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History tells us that on Nov. 7, 1862, between 1,200 and 1,500 well-armed Confederate combat soldiers moved into our part of south central Missouri. They carried four cannons with them, cannons that shot six-pound cannon balls. Their mission was to destroy all mills, blockhouses, and other structures in this area. Their aim was to destroy anything that could aid the Union Army.
At 10 a.m. on Nov. 7, 1862, they attacked Union soldiers at the little town of Vera Cruz, located some 15 miles east of Ava on Bryant Creek.
The second reenactment of the Battle of Clark’s Mill was held last Friday and Saturday on the Jack Vineyard property near Vera Cruz, where the battle took place some 150 years ago.
In addition to the reenactors who camped out in the bottom field and portrayed the soldiers, there were other participants on hand, demonstrating rail splitting, hide tanning, cider making and coppersmithing.
Historians Lou Wehmer, of Willow Springs, and Dan Keller, of West Plains, were among those who narrated stories of the Civil War as mule-drawn wagons carried folks around the property where the battle most certainly took place.
At 1 o’clock Saturday, a small group of reenactors took to the field and gave a demonstration of what the battle may have looked like. With the Confederates approaching the field from the south and the Union from the north, the two armies met, almost face to face in the field.
There was no rapid-fire gunfight like we would imagine. The blackpowder handguns were awkward and slow to reload. Each shot was deliberate and well-planned. If the gun didn’t fire, or had already been fired, one might resort to hand-to-hand encounter.
Then there were the cannons!
The reenactment was billed as “Thunder In the Valley” and for good reason.
Spectators watching from the hillside heard the pop, pop, pop of handguns. Then, someone would yell, “Fire” and the valley would echo with the boom of a cannon.
It was explained that the cannons were set up on the bluffs overlooking Vera Cruz, with intentions of destroying the buildings. But with the cannons high on the hill, the first shots sailed over the tops of the buildings, so the cannons had to be repositioned to perform their purpose.
The reenactment ended with the surrender of the Union soldiers who were out-manned and out of ammunition.