DANVILLE — This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War and two community leaders want to mark the occasion with a large, multi-faceted event.
Gail Tharp from the Hendricks County Museum and Cindy Rutledge, manager of the Indiana Room at the Danville Public Library, are coordinating Civil War Heritage Days/Hendricks County, planned for June 25 and 26 in downtown Danville.
”We had been talking about a joint project for a while,” Rutledge said. “There’s great interest out there for the Civil War. Lots of people who research it, lots of people who are re-enactors. But there’s not really anything in this county. That’s one of the reasons why we want to do this.”
She noted that Hendricks County has a deeper history with the Civil War than many people might expect.
”That’s one of the things we really want to emphasize,” Rutledge said. “We had lots of soldiers who volunteered from this county.”
Many from here supported the efforts of then Indiana Gov. Oliver Morton, who volunteered 10,000 Hoosier soldiers to invade the South and established Camp Morton, a military prison for Confederate soldiers on what is now the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Rutledge said Hendricks County also had an active underground railroad. While Indiana was mainly a Union state, there were many Confederates from here.
”I know of at least two who were released from Camp Morton who walked this far and settled here,” Rutledge said. “There are several Confederates buried in this area.”
So far organizers have secured one Calvary unit for the festival, to be stationed at the Hendricks County Government Center. They hope to get a couple more, one at the museum and the other at the courthouse.
Living history demonstrations such as candlemakers will be housed at the museum. The library will offer displays, including Civil War-era quilts, and children’s activities. Courthouse Grounds will have High Teas -- including desserts and finger foods -- for $15 a person. Organizers also are planning a Civil War-era fashion show, though a location hasn’t been established.
”There are other things in the works, they’re just not settled yet,” Tharp said.
That includes a show-and-tell, where residents can bring items dating from the Civil War period, and an agriculture/transportation display on the government center grounds.
Organizers are actively seeking Civil War re-enactors, volunteers, people to serve on a festival committee, and vendors. Donations and sponsors are also welcome. Interested parties can e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
”We’re really looking for this to be a big event,” Tharp said. “We’d like the county to embrace it.”
Rutledge hopes there are enough elements to the festival that everyone will find something they like.
”This is very much still in the planning stages,” she said. “We’re trying to get it so that it’s of interest to a variety of people.”