The Battle of Ashley's Mill at Scott, Arkansas, October 22-23, 1977

James N.

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One of the more unusual reenactments that members of our group ever attended was a railroad event held at an attraction just outside North Little Rock, Arkansas at what was known as the Scott & Bearskin Lake Railway. (The reenactment itself was called Ashley's Mill, presumably for a Civil War-era fixture; since this area had featured somewhat in the 1863 capture of the Arkansas State Capital Little Rock, it wasn't totally out-of-place!) As can be seen from the descriptions in the brochure below, although the two locomotives unfortunately dated from well-past the Civil War, they were nevertheless a big draw for area reenactors. The caption on the reverse of the period postcard above reads,

Cabbage stacked woodburner No. 1 built by Baldwin Locomotive Works, November, 1906, takes water from tank originally constructed for El Dorado and Wesson Railroad, now located at Scott Terminal, 9 miles Southeast of North Little Rock on Highway 130... Scott, Arkansas 72142

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Our Texas-based unit, the North Texas Reenactment Society, only fielded enough for a single gun crew at this event; above, left-to-right: myself, our captain and group leader Glen Smith, Mike Hubbard, Glen's son Colin, Clayton Perkins, and Glen Hargis. The photo was taken by Ed Owens who is seen below alongside a played-out Glen Hargis. The gun, a full-scale M.1841 mountain howitzer, was incorrect in having a black-painted iron barrel with a sized-down bore; soon after this its owner Glen Smith returned it to the foundry and had it bored out to correct appearance and painted it gold to better resemble the bronze from which the originals were cast.

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Other artillery present were the original guns belonging to Memphis-area SCV Camps; they may have originally been fine fellows, but we found they instead tended to be real jerks who used their clout to avoid having to "galvanize" for battle scenarios because they G-G-Grandpappys would roll in they graves iffen they wuz to put on thet BLUE! - Why, my skin would crisp & burn iffen I wuz to effen tetch it... etc., etc., usually leaving the riff-raff (that's US) to do it instead. Attitudes such as these would eventually lead our unit to become almost exclusively Federal in future events. Of course their full-scale originals were too heavy to be anything but position pieces that had to be towed by pickup to their positions beforehand and remain there during the battle.

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Other groups of authentics like our usual associates in the Confederate Guard seen above in their campsite were far more amenable and often "galvanized" themselves for the sake of the hobby and not refuse because of any imagined sense of superiority. I can recognize friends I later served with at memorable events at Gettysburg and Chickamauga including Danny Sessums, George Susat, and Robert Serio. Below, an early-morning look along the track at mist rising in our surroundings in recently-harvested soybean fields.

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Scott & Bearskin Lake Railway
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Of course the real *stars* of the event were the Scott & Bearskin Lake locomotives - as above, captions from the reverse of these photo postcards are in italics: Rushton stack, woodburner No. 1 built Nov. 1906 heads for home with excursion coaches made from old logging cars trailed by Louisiana & Northwest caboose No. 214 located on Hwy 130, 9 miles Southeast of North Little Rock, P.O. Box 1, Scott, Arkansas 72142

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Nineteenth Century "Armstrong Power" turntable with woodburner No. 1 after a day's run... Don't bother trying to locate this place today - within a very few years locomotives, rolling stock, turntable and all were moved to what was hoped to be a better venue far to the north of the state at Eureka Springs.

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W. T. Carter & Bro. No 2, Old East Texas logging engine built by Baldwin Locomotive Works, January 1907, hits the mainline leaving Scott with vintage coaches... Following a period of expansion, including the addition of many more locomotives and pieces of rolling stock at the new venue located in a narrow valley at Eureka Springs' original Edwardian Train Station, things seemed to be looking up for the museum and its collection. The highpoint was probably use of both station and at least one of these engines in the 1980's TV miniseries The Blue And The Gray. In one extended segment actor Stacy Keatch rides the train through the beautiful Arkansas countryside while supposedly carrying supplies for Meade's army fighting at Gettysburg when it's attacked by Rebel saboteurs. I even participated in a subsequent weekend reenactment there that was loosely based on that very idea!
 
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Rusk County Avengers

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I've never heard of this event and I can only imagine the potential it had with locomotives present. I know of a certain Jefferson event with a locomotive, but I heard they sold it because all the dang politics.

Other artillery present were the original guns belonging to Memphis-area SCV Camps; they may have originally been fine fellows, but we found they instead tended to be real jerks who used their clout to avoid having to "galvanize" for battle scenarios because they G-G-Grandpappys would roll in they graves iffen they wuz to put on thet BLUE! - Why, my skin would crisp & burn iffen I wuz to effen tetch it... etc., etc., usually leaving the riff-raff (that's US) to do it instead.

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Still happens the same exact way, and the other way being the perpetrators claiming "We forgot our blue!" which I can't help but think "Yeah right!" What gets me is the battalion officers playing politics, and us going to blue to get units from elsewhere to come. I'm not able to get to as many reenactments as I'd like, but its been maybe four years since I got to go Confederate. I've got Confederate uniforms I handsewn a couple years ago I still ain't got to wear to an event over political shenanigans by officers.

I don't mind wearing blue, its very very fun to be the bad guy, but it gets old from time to time. Between clowns like you had there, and clowns around here today I wonder if I'll ever reenact Confederate again!
 

James N.

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How interesting! That's our own local ES&NA RR. It makes a nice dinner run through the woods, and an interesting exhibit at the depot.
I'd hoped to get some feedback on the current state of affairs - last time I visited was probably around ten years ago and both the station and the railway were in a truly sorry state. I have motel reservations there in Eureka a week from right now and am really looking forward to seeing what things are like currently - it would be a terrible loss if all that were allowed to completely rot away!
 

James N.

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Return to Ashley's Mill, 1978
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" Oiling Around" before leaving with holiday special pulled by East Texas log road engine, W.T. Carter & Bro. No. 2 an oil burning 2-6-0 built by Baldwin Locomotive Works, January 1907...
I've never heard of this event and I can only imagine the potential it had with locomotives present. I know of a certain Jefferson event with a locomotive, but I heard they sold it because all the dang politics.



The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Still happens the same exact way, and the other way being the perpetrators claiming "We forgot our blue!" which I can't help but think "Yeah right!" What gets me is the battalion officers playing politics, and us going to blue to get units from elsewhere to come. I'm not able to get to as many reenactments as I'd like, but its been maybe four years since I got to go Confederate. I've got Confederate uniforms I handsewn a couple years ago I still ain't got to wear to an event over political shenanigans by officers.

I don't mind wearing blue, its very very fun to be the bad guy, but it gets old from time to time. Between clowns like you had there, and clowns around here today I wonder if I'll ever reenact Confederate again!
When we returned the following year for a second event, we decided to ditch all pretense of being Confederates and attended, camped, and fought entirely as Federals. Since we brought back otherwise favorable accounts of both the reenactment and the trains, this time we were able to field enough of our members to man our usual section of mountain howitzers and limbers, seen below in the background beside the track soon before the reenactment battle. In the foreground napping are our battery lieutenant Jim Marrs (of Kennedy Assassination and alien conspiracy fame!) and his wife Carol, who attended either taking candid black-and-white photos during the battles or alternately served as a member of a gun crew. Jim was DEFINITELY one who resented having to regularly go Federal as we did more and more starting around this time, whereas previously he had been perfectly willing to do so occasionally as a lark. Not coincidently, also beginning around this time we saw less and less of Jim, Carol, and others of our dyed-in-the-wool Confederates, who eventually dropped out altogether.

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Unfortunately, I have little memory now of this long-ago event, but talking with my friend Doug @1863surgeon he recalled the overall setup - The camps and battle site were located at the end of the RR spur, accessible to spectators mainly by train. (Meaning of course that that's how the railway made money off the event!) We of course rode free, but Doug remembers - as a then-callow and gung-ho college student - "volunteering" to help stoke woodburning Engine No. 1 and being also dragooned to polish its brass fittings! (I believe the photo below shows him at the end of his labors.)

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The battle, such as it was, was a pretty typical Southern event: tons of Rebs against a handful of "Yanks", mostly galvanized like the infantry along an improvised earthwork below. One aspect I DO however remember was the trick I played on our battery captain Glen Smith: The scenario called for US to actually win the battle by blowing away the last Rebel charge at the last minute with cannister at point-blank range. I was acting as No. 4 (lanyard) on Glen's mountain howitzer and when the time came and his command given to fire, I "panicked", threw down the lanyard, turned, and fled - Glen then had to run over, retrieve the lanyard, and fire it himself!

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Rusk County Avengers

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View attachment 378509
" Oiling Around" before leaving with holiday special pulled by East Texas log road engine, W.T. Carter & Bro. No. 2 an oil burning 2-6-0 built by Baldwin Locomotive Works, January 1907...

When we returned the following year for a second event, we decided to ditch all pretense of being Confederates and attended, camped, and fought entirely as Federals. Since we brought back otherwise favorable accounts of both the reenactment and the trains, this time we were able to field enough of our members to man our usual section of mountain howitzers and limbers, seen below in the background beside the track soon before the reenactment battle. In the foreground napping are our battery lieutenant Jim Marrs (of Kennedy Assassination and alien conspiracy fame!) and his wife Carol, who attended either taking candid black-and-white photos during the battles or alternately served as a member of a gun crew. Jim was DEFINITELY one who resented having to regularly go Federal as we did more and more starting around this time, whereas previously he had been perfectly willing to do so occasionally as a lark. Unfortunately, beginning around this time we saw less and less of Jim, Carol, and other dyed-in-the-wool Confederates.

View attachment 378510

Unfortunately, I have little memory now of this long-ago event, but talking with my friend Doug @1863surgeon he recalled the overall setup - The camps and battle site were located at the end of the RR spur, accessible to spectators mainly by train. (Meaning of course that that's how the railway made money off the event!) We of course rode free, but Doug remembers - as a then-callow and gung-ho college student - "volunteering" to help stoke woodburning Engine No. 1 and being also dragooned to polish its brass fittings! (I believe the photo below shows him at the end of his labors.)

View attachment 378513

The battle, such as it was, was a pretty typical Southern event: tons of Rebs against a handful of "Yanks", mostly galvanized like the infantry along an improvised earthwork below. One aspect I DO however remember was the trick I played on our battery captain Glen Smith: The scenario called for US to actually win the battle by blowing away the last Rebel charge at the last minute with cannister at point-blank range. I was acting as No. 4 (lanyard) on Glen's mountain howitzer and when the time came and his command given to fire, I "panicked", threw down the lanyard, turned, and fled - Glen then had to run over, retrieve the lanyard, and fire it himself!

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Now that's funny with Mr. Doug! We really need more blue a lot of times. I don't mind it, some of the best fun I've had was in blue, I'd just like to go gray when possible.

I don't remember anymore for sure who said it to me, but when I was a teenager in the artillery I ended up blue a lot, even my first reenactment my Dad had to get me a blue uniform after I showed up with my one gray one, (I honestly think he enjoyed me going blue, he hated the CSA and my reenacting), and I'd resent it and throw a fit just like the fellers you mentioned, but whoever it was took me aside and told me:

"You ain't dishonoring your Confederate ancestors wearing blue, you actually honoring them. Our ancestors were usually outnumbered by the Federals, and you honor them by trying to make that a realty. A lot of Federal troops were brave and died for their country, and yes there was a lot that were downright evil in what they did. Whether its a good or the meanest, nastiest Federal soldier, your honoring your Confederate ancestor by being willing to wear the blue and do it. Especially when everyone else refuses to."

Whether portraying a brave Federal soldier, a coward running from the front, or a downright nasty Federal, I've had more fun doing them than a lot of Confederate impressions. Though I learned early on very well that two of those don't translate well to Confederate portrayals. When I did the fleeing soldier bit in gray I got death threats for a while! Never mind the fact it happened in the CS Army, you literally can't convince people of that.
 

Waterloo50

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That’s a great post, very interesting and to think that at one time the Scott and Bearskin Lake railway had 3 of those locomotives up and running, it must have been very nostalgic.
 

Peace Society

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I'd hoped to get some feedback on the current state of affairs - last time I visited was probably around ten years ago and both the station and the railway were in a truly sorry state. I have motel reservations there in Eureka a week from right now and am really looking forward to seeing what things are like currently - it would be a terrible loss if all that were allowed to completely rot away!
I haven't gotten over that way myself much, so I hope it's doing okay these days.
 

Peace Society

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I'd hoped to get some feedback on the current state of affairs - last time I visited was probably around ten years ago and both the station and the railway were in a truly sorry state. I have motel reservations there in Eureka a week from right now and am really looking forward to seeing what things are like currently - it would be a terrible loss if all that were allowed to completely rot away!
Did you get a chance to see the RR station and ride the train? Do they still have the engine under question?
 

James N.

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Did you get a chance to see the RR station and ride the train? Do they still have the engine under question?
It was abysmal - I went both late one afternoon/evening the next day and it was like a ghost town. I wandered among the rusting junk and saw poor old oil-burning Engine No. 2 resting and rusting off the tracks sunk into the ground and minus its cab, a gaping maw-like hole into the boilers. I saw no trace whatever of Engine No. 1. I again drove past the station and yard the next day and the CLOSED sign was still out front and no one available to ask about the status of the place.
 

Peace Society

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That is really sad! Their website contains such glowing reports of people's visits. It's possible they are only open for part of the year. It did really well some years back. My parents enjoyed the dinner train, but that may have been 20 yrs ago. Wish there were some engine enthusiasts who could rescue the historic trains.
 
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