Last updated: July 23. 2013 7:05PM - 210 Views
Kevin Kelly



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GALLIPOLIS - The life and times of the troops that fought on both sides of the American Civil War will again be on display April 28-30 in the Gallipolis City Park.
That's when the annual Federal Army Homecoming returns to the park, which served as a military depot during the conflict.
Drills, artillery demonstrations, a sham battle and period cricket matches will be among the attractions, in addition to performances by the Portsmouth-based Blue and Gray Civil War Band, which will also serve as the entertainment for a period ball in the park.
The homecoming weekend is sponsored by the Gallia County Convention and Visitors Bureau and hosted by the 91st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Civil War reenactment group.
OVI member Jim Oiler of Thurman, the event coordinator, said the homecoming is not only instructional but serves as a memorial to the conflict's foot soldiers.
“We're not honoring the war, but the soldiers,” Oiler said. “There used to be reunions here in the park, which is what the homecoming also celebrates.”
Among the new features the homecoming offers is the appearance of the Blue and Gray band, which will stage a concert at noon and at 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 29. The band will also perform for the period ball from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday. The band's music will help in setting the mood for the homecoming by performing music from the war era.
An artillery demonstration slated for 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday will be conducted by the Ohio First Light Artillery Battery, using two of the four 12-pound Napoleon cannons from the Ohio Statehouse, which Oiler said are rarely allowed to be used elsewhere.
Cricket matches will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, demonstrating a sport that soldiers used as recreation during encampments.
“Cricket was more popular in that time because it was the pre-baseball days,” Oiler said. “It was a common recreation for both Union and Confederate soldiers.”
The matches will be run by Tom Melville of Milwaukee, Wis., a cricket player, author and leading authority on the history of American cricket. Melville said cricket was at the height of its popularity in the 1850s and '60s.
Sponsorship of the homecoming has come locally from Paul Davies Jewelers, John Sang Ford-Lincoln-Mercury and the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 709.
Additional sponsors are sought, especially to help in covering the cost of the Blue and Gray band's performances. Anyone interested in being a sponsor can contact Oiler at 245-0134 or joiler@zoomnet.net.
For the reenactors, Bob Evans restaurants provide breakfast and special prices are available for them at the nearby Parkfront Diner and Bakery.
The homecoming's first day is Friday, April 28, and has traditionally allowed for school tours to come in and sample the Civil War era's military experience. A full slate of activities will be held Saturday, while Sunday's events will be highlighted by a 10 a.m. church service. The camp closes at 1 p.m.
Oiler noted that the homecoming is one of several events in the area's reenactor season, to be highlighted in September with the return of Morgan's Raid reenactors to Vinton and Meigs counties.
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