Seeing History Re-enacted in Siouxland, Canton Civil War Days, Canton, SD

8 Sep

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently I attended a Civil War battle re-enactment in Siouxland of the Champion Hill battle that took place outside of Vicksburg, MS in 1863. Interestingly enough the family that hosted this event had a great grandfather or great, great grandfather who actually fought in this particular battle and was part of an Illinois regiment that fought for the North during the Civil War. Sometimes listening to speakers and commentators speaking through a loud system one does not always hear correctly. And this was the first year this event was held.

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

From news accounts I read, a local from the area of Canton had become interested in Civil War re-enactments and attended some in the past out of state. But with the last couple of years or so being skewed by the Covid pandemic and possibly not wanting to travel so far, this individual began investigating whether or not such a re-enactment of an actual event could take place in Canton. There were some accounts about this being possibly controversial, only because at the time of the Civil War, the Dakota Territory was still just that, a territory and not yet divided into two individual states.

Re-enactors portraying Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas discuss issues of the day during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An audience listens as re-enactors portraying Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas discuss issues of the day during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This re-enactor from Missouri talks about his interest in the Civil War history when in 2005 wasinvited to participate in a staged battle and has stayed involved participating in many staged events throughout the county, the latest at the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Confederate Army encampment seen during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During the re-enactment two “gentlemen” dressed in period attire spoke about the war and added many factoids and bits and pieces of the war between the states. I am not certain where these gents haled from or their background, but they were knowledgeable. Nor did they sugar coat or try “rewriting” history but said through all written declarations about the South and its secession it was all about the slavery. And the ability of the southern land owners to continue reaping benefits and profits from enforced slavery to plant and harvest crops. The men also talked about the toll of the war on communities and the men who fought. They recited facts and figures of desertions from men for the South and the North who became disenfranchised with the fighting that dragged on for years which was much different than what many were told at the outset. That the war would be over in a short time. Much like the bravado evidenced in the movie “Gone with the Wind”. But reality was much different and much crueler.

A Union Army encampment seen during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An audience takes a seat along a farm field road to watch the staged Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John (seen in blue tee shirt) and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A smoke ring created after firing a canon as Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I found the running commentary helpful in putting facts and fiction and other accounts into perspective. One can always take what is said with a grain of salt. And today, so many “learned” folk try to rewrite history to serve their own purpose. Many politicians of all stripes and parties. Shameless. It seems sometimes that ethics and honor doesn’t really matter anymore. But it was an interesting glimpse into the past of this country and in talking with a few of those participating in the battle, all have a genuine interest in the history and portraying it honestly, traveling from eight different states to attend. History never changes, it’s just the interpretation.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Documenting the Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Documenting the Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Civil War re-enactors from eight states stage the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An audience takes a seat along a farm field road to watch the staged Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863 during the Canton Civil War Days in Canton, South Dakota, Saturday, August 13, 2022. The Civil War Days take place on the property of John and Lori Lems, whose great grandfather, or great, great grandfather fought for the North in an Illinois regiment in the actual Champion Hill battle that took place in Mississippi. It was a pivotal battle in the Vicksburg campaign of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursuing the Confederate States Army of Vicksburg, Mississippi. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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