Whatever it is or may be about the Civil War, it seems almost any event will attract a crowd. The grand opening of the Polk County History Center’s latest exhibit — “Edge of Wilderness: Polk County in the Civil War” — was no exception.
The exhibit, which opened Friday, Sept. 27, with a mini-concert by the 97th Regimental String Band, was met with exuberance, especially on the part of the many children there with adults. Their shouts of glee echoed throughout the lobby of the History Center as they raced up the stairwells to where the performance would be held, with parents, grandparents and others in tow.
By the time the concert was about to begin, the room in which it was being held was filled to capacity. While most were dressed in today’s fashions, there were those garbed in period clothing, including History Center Executive Director Myrtice Young.
Two of the three members of the string band were clad in Confederate grey jackets and caps, while the third member wore a Union blue jacket and cap. In-between songs, they took turns telling their audience brief nuggets about the Civil War from the perspective of soldiers on both sides, as well as from the slave perspective. It was done in a style both serious and light-hearted.
One aspect brought up was that while the interior of Florida skewed toward the Confederacy, the shores of Florida leaned heavily toward preserving the Union.
“It’s much like tourism today,” said Mark “Mad Dog” Luce, “with Yankees along the coast.”
His compatriot, Rick “Texas” Moock urged those in the audience that if they knew any older people who might have known somebody who fought in or was involved in some capacity in the Civil War, talk to them, said Moock.
As with all presentations prior to the opening of exhibits, the audience was greeted by Young. In her presentation, she provided a short synopsis of how the program came together and thanked those who worked behind the scenes. Included in that tribute were words of praise to Maria Trippe.
Trippe, who has been with the History Center several years, recently was promoted to Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, and was a driving force behind this.
“This is Maria’s first exhibit,” said Young.
Among the tidbits of information passed along by the 97th Regimental String Band members was that movies and TV notwithstanding, many of those who fought were not in their 20s and 30s, but also included those younger than 18; a number of them as young as 14, if not younger.
The musicians also interspersed their songs with corny jokes, such as how Moock got the nickname “Tex” or “Texas.” When asked why he was called either when he wasn’t born or raised in the Lone Star state, he said he was actually from Louisiana but wasn’t about to let anyone call him Louise.
Some of their songs drew greater responses than others, particularly those of the South. Others evoked a sense of wistfulness, such as “Shenandoah.” Of the former, one that got the audience enthusiastically singing along were “Jimmy Crack Corn (and I Don’t Care),” a slave song about a plantation master who tragically dies. The other song, and which closed the performance, was “Dixie.”
Following the performance, guests were invited to tour the exhibit. The Civil War exhibit will be on display until April 2015.