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Archive for Sunday, June 27, 1993

LECOMPTON CELEBRATES ITS HISTORY

June 27, 1993

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— As the first shot rang out, young and old alike stood to watch Saturday's reenactment of the Battle of Fort Titus at the annual Territorial Day celebration here.

Although the celebration is held every year, the battle reenactments are only staged every third year. The battle, which was fought in Lecompton in August 1856, was a clash between free staters and pro-slavery forces over whether Kansas would adopt a pro-slavery constitution.

Paul Bahnmaier, Territorial Day committee member, said he felt the battle, which occurred five years before the Civil War officially began, was an important episode of that period.

``We like to think the events that occurred here had a significant impact on the rest of the war,'' Bahnmaier said.

Reenactors say they work to ensure their simulations are as authentic as possible.

``In reenacting, everything is real,'' said Allen Jones, who fought Saturday in the defense of Fort Titus. Jones, of Topeka, is a member of the Ninth Texas Volunteer Infantry, which is part of the Civil War Reenactors Assn., an umbrella group for various Midwest reenacting groups.

``We don't rewrite history, so yes, it takes a lot of preparation to make sure it's as real as possible,'' he said. ``This battle was kind of laid back -- it is almost what you would call a gang battle -- because these were civilians fighting, not regular soldiers.''

The conflict may not have seem laid back to the spectators, many of whom jumped at the sound of the cannon fire of a mountain Howitzer used in the reenactment. Although only blanks are used in the simulations, all of the equipment is capable of firing live ammunition.

The battle was one of many events held to recognize the history of Lecompton, which was the territorial capital of Kansas. The town has held annual celebrations since before the turn of the century, Bahnmaier said. Originally called the Harvest Home Picnic, the name was changed in 1976 when Constitution Hall was named a national landmark.

``We changed our name to recognize the historical significance of the area,'' Bahnmaier said.

Turnout at Saturday's event was good, he added. Other attractions included softball, horseshoe and sandlot volleyball tournaments; frog and turtle races, plus other games for children; an antique car and antique gun display; a parade and wagon train excursion along the Oregon Trail; live music and dancing; plus food, arts and crafts booths.

In addition, Lane University Museum opened its door to visitors, and tours were offered at Constitution Hall, where legislators drafted a territorial constitution that would have made slavery legal in Kansas.

The Civil War reenactors will recreate the Battle of Fort Titus again at 2 p.m. today.

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