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RED OAK — Complete with Union soldiers in authentic dress and original artillery, including one of the few remaining war veterans, Red Oak stepped back 150 years during the weekend to celebrate Iowa’s roots in the Civil War.
Sunday’s event at the Montgomery County Historical Society sponsored by the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War began with the firing of an authentic Civil War cannon. The cannon dates back to 1862 where it was used during the Battle of Shiloh.
It is one of only six cannons left from the war that is capable of still being fired.
Glenn Kelley of Iowa Lake, an SUVCW member and restorer of the cannon, gave demonstrations on the proper tools and techniques needed to safely fire the weapon while five members of the organization who formed the gun crew loaded the cannon. Several dozen people of all ages were present to watch the weapon fire; they covered their ears as the cannon shot and a cloud of smoke filled the air.
Local gun collectors, including James Norris and Alan Kirshen, displayed their collections and Kirshen discussed Iowa’s role during the war.
While there were no battles fought in the state, more than 76,000 men, 11 percent of the population then, were sent to fight for the Union, more than any other state per capita.
“The Civil War is one of the most important factors of the United States as we know it today,” Kirshen said. “We want people to be aware of the incredible sacrifices that were taken to preserve the Union.”
Kirshen, who is also a member of SUVCW, said the group, which is known as Kinsman Camp 23 of the state department of the national SUVCW organization, travels around West and Southwest Iowa with the cannon giving living history demonstrations.
The SUVCW was originally called the Grand Army of the Republic, which was formed in 1866 to preserve the heritage of the values of the Union while providing an opportunity for veterans to reunite. It was renamed SUVCW during 1925. To be a full member, one has to prove he or she is an ancestor of a Civil War Union soldier.
There are about 30 members of the Kinsman Camp. They do everything from providing history lessons at schools to protecting and revitalizing Civil War graves.
This is the first time a Civil War event featuring the cannon has been held in Red Oak.