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  • Candles light the way

  • The Civil War  impacted not only the soldiers who did the fighting, but also brought many changes to civilian life as well.

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  • The Civil War impacted not only the soldiers who did the fighting, but also brought many changes to civilian life as well.
    Some of these changes will be explored during the 31st annual candlelight tour at the Fort Scott National Historic Site. Theme will be “The Challenges of War.”
    The tour began Friday and will also be offered from 5 to 9 p.m. today. Tours run every 15 minutes and last approximately one hour. Cost is $8 for each person aged 6 and older. Tickets are still available and may be reserved by calling 620-223-0310.
    More than 700 candle lanterns will illuminate the grounds of the old fort, and around 80 reenactors will present five scenes.
    “We actually have at least 100 volunteers, many of them behind the scenes,” said Galen Ewing, park ranger.
    He said that the scenes presented in the tour are set in 1862.
    “This was the second year of the Civil War, and people had lost their naive thoughts about it being a short war,” Ewing said.
    Fort Scott became a supply depot, with supplies going out to soldiers. At the same time, the community was flooded with refugees, including pro-Union Cherokee Indians who had been driven out of their lands by pro-Confederate Cherokees. Ewing said many of them settled south of Fort Scott.
    “The army saw the potential to recruit, and the First Indian Home Guard was formed in this area,” Ewing said. “They fought with whites and blacks. Probably the most diverse military was here in southeast Kansas.”
    In the first scene of the tour, supplies are being loading to be sent south for the Indian Expedition, an effort to get the pro-Union Cherokee back into their lands in Oklahoma.
    In the second scene, a group of women discuss how the schools have been disrupted by the war, while the third scene deals with officers discussing the need for more troops at the fort. Their discussion is interrupted by a soldier bringing news of the death of Lt. Col. Lewis R. Jewell, Sixth Kansas Cavalry Regiment, in Arkansas.
    Another scene dealt with the hospital aide society formed by the women of Fort Scott. They collected items for ill or injured soldiers, visited them and wrote letters for them.
    “Pre-Civil War there were no female nurses, and we know there were female nurses in Fort Scott,” Ewing said. “One of them was a black woman.”
    The final scene depicts officers discussing the role of the first Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment’s performance in combat at Island Mound, Missouri, in October 1862. This was the first time an African American regiment had met and defeated Confederates in combat.
    This scene is set on Dec. 31, 1862, on the eve of the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863.
    Page 2 of 2 - “This will give us endless opportunities,” says Capt. William Matthews, an officer of the Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment depicted by Ramon Taylor, a Pittsburg State University student. “We’ll be able to own property and maybe even run for political office.”
    Ewing said that this scene has not been documented, but it could have happened.
    “The Civil War was like a second American Revolution because of the social norms that changed,” he said. “There were more active roles for women and slavery was ended.”

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