Visitors to the Rincon Memorial Park on the afternoon of June 22 were treated to a re-enactment of the Battle of Rincon Hill, on the sesquicentennial anniversary of the event that resulted in the only military casualties of the Civil War within city limits. Some highlights of the show:
3:00 pm – A group of eight emaciated looking Confederate soldiers, separated from their regiment and lost disastrously far north of the Mason-Dixon line, are seen seated around a campfire, sipping coffee from tin cups. One plays a melancholy rendition of “Dixie” on a harmonica.
3:18 pm – Three Union soldiers, on a week-long furlough and solidly in their cups, stagger drunkenly to the top of Rincon Hill, where they spot the rebel camp below. They huddle together conspiratorially, planning an ambush. Gradually, the men arm themselves, one with a pistol, one with a largish rock, and the third with a tree branch.
3:26 pm – The Union soldiers pantomime counting to three, then, screaming, charge down the hill brandishing their weapons.
3:27 pm – The Confederate soldiers, startled and unsure of the nature of the ambush, flee.
3:27 pm – The Union soldier with the rock, Pvt. Farrell Jennings (portayed by bus driver Gus Harden), is inadvertently shot in the back of the head by the Union soldier wielding the pistol.
3:28 pm – One of the retreating Confederate soldiers is seen limping after stepping on a rusty cobbling nail. He would later die from tetanus at nearby Millford Military Hospital three weeks later.
Though no mention of the Battle of Rincon Hill can be found in Ken Burns’ exhaustive 660-minute PBS documentary The Civil War, the incident is recounted in a sub-footnote in one of historian Shelby Foote’s many books about the War Between the States. Foote calls the battle “hardly a ‘battle’ at all; perhaps not even a skirmish. An ill-advised, debauched, kerfuffle would be a more apt description.”
An estimated 3,200 spectators attended the re-enactment.
- Ray Ingraham