By Jim Bell
The second annual Battle of Blackjack Grove Civil War Weekend is just around the corner in Groveton, Friday through Sunday, Feb. 17 - 19. The highlight of the weekend will be a re-enactment of last year’s Civil War battle that never happened. It’s more correct to call it an “enactment” because no Civil War battle was ever fought anywhere near Groveton or Trinity County. But that doesn’t matter to the Trinity County Chamber of Commerce, the Groveton School District, or a lot of re-enactors and history buffs. They want a battle, so they’re going to have one.
Chamber President Jack McMahon said they got the idea to create their own battle from veteran re-enactor Dyson Nickle, who teaches American History at Lufkin Middle School.
McMahon said a couple of years ago, “Groveton high school did a one-act play set during the Civil War for UIL competition. For the sake of realism, they asked Dyson to show and tell the real conditions of the war years for the young actors. So when another re-enactment event somewhere else was cancelled, Dyson and his re-enactor friends had some free time, so he called our mayor and asked if there was any interest in having one. He – the mayor - directed Dyson to me and my wife Cheryl, and we ran with it.” And the rest is “made up” history.
Where did they get the name of this battle that never happened? McMahon said they didn’t have to look very far to find a name. It was just a little ways up the road. “When you put on a battle re-enactment, you need to have a battle to present, and since Groveton didn't exist during the Civil War, we decided to name the battle after where Groveton got its name: a grove of Blackjack oak trees just outside of town,” McMahon said.
McMahon explained that in addition to the re-enactments on Saturday and Sunday, they’re planning a weekend of living history activities designed to show what life was like in the army camps. After a parade through Groveton at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, visitors can stroll through the camps and meet re-enactors in infantry, horse mounted cavalry and artillery units, in period uniforms with 19th century firearms of all kinds, including cannons.
They want it to be a serious educational experience for school children and their parents, because, McMahon said, they want to remember and honor local men who fought in the war, many of whom were their ancestors.
“After the war, many of the survivors returned to Trinity County. Today most of us are descendants of the three companies of soldiers that our county provided during the Civil War,” McMahon commented. “We want to continue to re-enact the history of our county, state, and nation because it is imperative that our kids appreciate and remember the past so they won't make the same mistakes.” That’s why they want this to be an event that attracts spectators and participants from miles around.
As it was all over the South, differences over slavery and Secession made life in Trinity County violent and bloody during and after the Civil War, but it’s a lot more peaceful and sedate today. That’s going to change on Saturday and Sunday Feb. 18 and 19 when the 3rd Texas Mounted Cavalry and other Civil War re-enactors divide up to play the roles of Confederate soldiers fighting an invading Union force.
On Saturday night the big social event of the weekend will be held. The Valentine Ball, a 19th century dance will be held in the Old Gym at Groveton Elementary School. The public is invited to put on their best antebellum Sunday Go-to-Meetin’ finery and join the fun.
On Sunday, Feb. 19 at 10 a.m., the Chamber President McMahon will put on his Methodist minister’s hat to become the Rev. Jack McMahon, and conduct a church service in the camp using a Prayer Book like the one Robert E. Lee was known to have with him everywhere he went before and during the war.
McMahon said his wife Cheryl deserves much of the credit for making it all come to life. “Without the commitment, dedication, energy, and leadership of Cheryl McMahon, the Battle of Blackjack Grove would not be happening.”
There are admission charges for some of the events, including the Saturday night Valentine Ball. For more information on ticket prices and a full schedule of events, contact the Trinity County Chamber of Commerce at 1-936-642-1715.
The chamber website is http://www.trinitycountychamber.org.