Off the beaten tracks

Monday, October 15, 2001

JACKSON, Mo. -- Sitting in cushioned seats aboard a car of the St. Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railway, Billy Bowman, Richard Welter, Bobbie Barnett and Deby Fitzpatrick looked a bit out of place.

Or maybe a bit out of time. Dressed in blue cotton shirts and wool pants held snugly by suspenders, the men carried tin cups and satchels with guns and ammunition. The women, dressed in dark dresses that covered their hoops and each wearing bonnets, carried baskets to hold their handkerchieves, fan and sewing kits.

The four were part of a Civil War re-enactment planned Sunday afternoon for passengers of the railroad. But about midway through the ride to Gordonville, Mo., the train engine jumped its track by a few inches.

Steady rains on Saturday washed out a culvert under the track about three miles from Jackson. No one was hurt when the train derailed, but passengers weren't able to see the full re-enactment planned for the trip. Tickets were refunded.

After about an hour's wait and a transfer to the last car of the train, passengers were treated to a small-scale skirmish between the Yankee soldiers and Union sympathizers.

The original excursion was scheduled to last two hours and it took about 2 1/2 hours to get the rescue engine 911 hooked up to the car so passengers could return to the station.

William Jenkins, 11, of Oak Ridge, Mo., had hoped to see more of the knives, guns and battle equipment used during the Civil War. "It was close to what I thought I'd see," he said of the skirmish.

Jenkins brought a Civil War encyclopedia along with him for the train ride.

Civil War travel

The train ride wasn't meant to be a true Civil War re-enactment, which would have included hundreds or even thousands of re-enactors. Instead, it was designed to show the passengers what travel might have been like as soldiers from the Confederacy and Union vied for control of the railroads.

Many women would have been homeless refugees who followed the troops in search of their husbands, said Barnett, who played the role of Mary Chestnut, a Union supporter.

She was headed for Gordonville in search of her husband who was reported to be near an artillery camp there. As she explained to the passengers, she and her husband were from Evening Shade, Ark., and she heard he'd been seen in the area.

Bowman, portraying a Yankee soldier, shouted out he'd seen her husband -- dead in a field.

"Yankee, I don't believe a word you say, so hush your mouth," she retorted. "Yankees lie."

Fitzpatrick moved seats several times during the short train ride because she happened to be sitting too near a Yankee or a Yankee supporter. She polled passengers about where their sympathies lie and then explained that she had to get a supply of quinine through the lines to the Confederate troops. She asked for help to keep an eye on the Yankee supporters.

Eventually Fitzpatrick was able to get to the troops, since a gunfire skirmish between the Union and Confederate soldiers on the train allowed her to escape. She walked the three miles from the derailment to the camp at Gordonville.

335-6611, extension 126

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