By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Staff Writer
RENTIESVILLE — The presentation of colors, roar of a cannon and a hushed invocation began the sesquicentennial Honey Springs memorial service on Saturday morning.
Lynn Shackleford, a member of the Trans-Mississippi Rifle Veterans Reserve, said he’d had the opportunity to participate in the event for the last 20 years as a re-enactor.
“We’re all volunteers,” Shackleford said. “We come from all walks of life, and the Civil War is our passion. We re-enact to educate, educate to preserve, and preserve to honor.”
Shackleford and other members of the group were dressed as Union and Confederate soldiers to honor both sides of the Civil War at the Honey Springs Battlefield Historic Site.
“Our basic unit is a Confederate group,” he said. “But we have Union colors on today as well. We are all Americans.”
About 100 people attended the ceremony, which included the presentation of the National Underground Railroad-Network to Freedom award, as well as something the site has coveted since its inception: the National Historic Landmark distinction.
Bruce Noble, the superintendent and Oklahoma state coordinator of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, gave a short speech and then presented a plaque stating its official landmark status.
Christopher Price, the director of the Honey Springs Battlefield site, said the service is a way of remembering the men who fought in the famous battle.
“It’s one of those things that we as a community can commemorate things from our past which still shape our future,” Price said. “It is distinctly different than a re-enactment. This is a memorial service.”
According to civilwar.org, the Battle of Honey Springs took place on June 17, 1863. Confederate forces were gathered at the Honey Springs Depot, concentrating their efforts to attack Fort Gibson. The Union commander, Major General James G. Blunt, decided to defeat the Confederates at the depot before they were joined by even more troops. The Union forces won the battle, giving them control of Indian Territory north of the Arkansas River.
John Davis, the historic properties manager, said the service was a “cool” part of his job.
“It gives us a chance to recognize the men who fought here,” he said. “The more people we can make aware of it, the more of a chance it has to survive time and live on.”
Shackleford said the Trans-Mississippi Rifle Veterans Reserve was raised on war movies, John Wayne movies, and “hero” movies.
“We believe in America,” he said. “Some people consider what we do playing, but to us it is serious. We get a lot out of it, and we want to give back.”
Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or firstname.lastname@example.org.