Five questions for Art Shutt.

Art is a living historian and a member of the 9th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The 9th Michigan is color guards and escorts for the Lincoln Look-Alike Organization.

1) How did you get involved with the 9th Michigan?

2) Your impression is Private Samuel Obadiah Watson. Was he a real person? Why did you select him?

3) What’s your favorite part of being a living historian?

4) Union impressions are vastly outnumbered by those portraying Confederates in the modern world of the Civil War. What draws you, personally, to the Union?

5) The most common question living historians get is “Aren’t you hot?” What are some of your favorite questions to answer?

I believe I can answer these questions this way.

I had a friend, Phil Roth, who was with the 8th KY CSA, confederate, and a friend of Fort Duffield, West Point, KY. He invited me to a reenactment at West Point, KY and I went. Phil was trying to get to be confederate because he needed recruits and it is cheaper to be confederate. You can be “Farbie”, use modern clothing and equipment to look like a confederate. Also you can use pieces of equipment from earlier wars to a Johnny Reb, such as a “charlivelle” French rifle from F/I to the Battle of Shiloh. Mexican war gear also would work.

So here I was at 1994, Reenactment at West Point, and I watched 150 Johnny rebs march unto the field. WOW, this is a big event, I thought to myself, as the Crowd just went crazy, cheering and shouting, How the South is going to win the next war, and just how bad Johnnie was going to kick Billy yank’s butt. I took all this in good humor and was looking for the Blue to enter the field. I then saw a small group of not more than 30, young boys and old men in blue come on the field in a single battle line and I was saying and thinking this must be the skirmishers and I was looking for the main battle group when the announcer said, Lets cheer for the Boys in blue and I was still looking for the main body, thinking “this can’t be all of them” when a lady in a period dress, Shouted “HURRAH for the boys in Blue!” and no one said anything. I was so embarrassed for not shouting because I was still looking for other Union troops. I realized that there were no more Union troops coming unto the field.

I said to myself, “By God, I am Union!” and I haven’t portrayed a southern/Johnnie Reb at all.
Having then made up my mind to be Union, disappointing my friend, Phil, He introduced me to Colonel Billy Morris, Commander of the 9th Michigan Infantry Regiment. I then started going and doing things with Fort Duffield and with Colonel Billy.

Colonel Billy Morris was also a “Lincoln” man and he rekindled the love and awe that I had for Mr. Lincoln. My Aunt in California, Marge Luden, took me to Disneyland in Calf. And bought me a Union cap and a book titled “Meet Abe Lincoln” in 1972. The first book that I read in 3d grade, 1970, was about a drummer boy at the Battle of Gettysburg. Because of Mr. Lincoln, I was a Union man, and I hated the thought of slavery, even though I admired General Lee and General Stonewall Jackson. The more I studied the war, the less to me that the war was about state rights and more about Slavery. I believe the movie, “Glory” says a lot about the war and what it really was about. Though I also enjoy “Gods and Generals” and “Gettysburg”.

With the 9th Michigan, I got a small part in the Movie, “The greatest Adventure of My Life, or Union Drummer or Union Drummer Boy. You can rent the movie and Most of the Union fellows in the Movie are men from the 9th Mich, 11th & 17th KY regiments.

Private Samuel Obadiah Watson was a name and story that I made up setting around the campfire, either the summer of 1999 or 2000. I know that SOW became a part of me by the time I was teaching in Bullitt County. I had received from my cousin, Randy Watts, the Watson family history for the DAR project. Two Watsons fought in the Civil War, one in the east, 133d PA INF Regt., (Made it the furtherest in the Battle of Fredericksburg) and one in the west, 97-99th, fell at Stones River (Jan 1863). Up until then I was portraying Chaplain John Lozier, 37th Indiana Regt. And then I would be a private so I could shoot. When I found out my family history and that we were Irish, in which, 20% of the 9th Mich. Comprised of Irishmen. I was studying the Christian aspect of the War, wanted to represent my family and so the “Happy private”, Samuel Obadiah Watson was born by the fireside of Fort Duffield, West Point, Kentucky.

The story goes that the Watson’s served the Irish Kings with glee and bit their tongues serving the English Kings and when upon arrival in Pennsylvania in 1720, my ancestor stated, “No King but King Jesus”. My Father, a hog farmer, however, scoffed at Religion, and so Mother along w/my six sisters, would pray and read the Holy bible on our farm in Michigan. Now Father was known far and wide because of his white Dorchester female pig, which he called “sow”. Sow won many a prize, wager and much spirits for Father to enjoy from the hard work of farm life, since he had no sons to help w/the work. On the day of my birthing, sow also was producing a litter for Father. Father was in the hog barn with sow while my six sisters were with mother in the house. The day had become pitch black and Father struck a “Lucifer” and lit the lantern in the barn. When he reached the 13th piglet, a fierce storm struck our farm, the rain beat against the barn and the wind started to raise the roof off the barn. Father fearing for the life of the sow, threw himself upon her, and cried out, “If there be a God in Heaven, This child that is born today and I will serve You the rest of the days of our lives!” No sooner had Father uttered those words, did the storm abate and the roof settled back on the hog barn. Father struck another Lucifer and counted the piglets, there were 27 of them, a record still in Michigan Hog history. Father came out of the Hog barn doing an Irish Jig; My Oldest Sister came running out of the house to inform him that he finally had a son.
Father looked and seen a Rainbow that split and had ended at the hog barn and our house. He ran in and told mother what had happened while she gave birth to me. He informed her that he wanted his son to remind him of “sow”.

Mother being a good Christian woman, cried out with joy at the answers to her prayers. Samuel was born to Hannah, a woman who had no children, and was the 1st prophet to hear the voice of God in Israel.

Obadiah was a servant in the house of the Lord and read the word of the Lord in the temple after returning from exile.

Watson is those who are the son of Watt and served the Kings of the British Isles.

Samuel Obadiah Watson, the Happy Private of the 9th Michigan Infantry Regiment!

I enjoy being a living historian in that what I learn from others and how I get to make the war become real for people. I have had folks laugh at my story and then have ’em crying when explaining the hardships of losing family and friends in the war. I also enjoy it when I have students and others count up how old I am or before they do, that I have them convinced that I actually fought in the Civil War. When I do that, I feel that I have done justice to those who did fight and gave their “Full Measure of Devotion” to the cause, both North and South.

The questions asked, most prevalent is “Aren’t you hot?” and I asked them if they are? Then I inform them that if it rained, I would be comfortable and they would be miserable.

People want to know if we shoot “real” bullets at one another, if our equipment is real from the Civil War, in which, a lot of times, I don’t realize the price of the item. Billy used to bring his Harpers Ferry 1859 musket to the Fort, until someone handled it roughly and Bill told me that it was worth $5,000.00. I believe it is worth more than that.

They ask us if we authentic food of the time period, in which, there for a while, we had a confederate who does a good job setting up a Civil War Field kitchen. I was surprised at how many people who pass his display because they wanted to see soldiers and the guns. The cannon crew at the Fort is always a crowd winner and pleaser. People like it when we do the bayonet drills and then marvel that only 5% of injuries came from the bayonet. I always ask them to touch the bayonet and then ask them, if they would like to be stuck with it. They say “NO!” and I say “Exactly what the Civil War soldiers on both sides would say!”

It is great fun and a learning experience in doing living history and then you run into the folks that don’t want weapons around and they don’t want you to fire the weapon but they want soldiers around for the crowd. Others want you for their program but then don’t share the program w/you or put you out in the back 40 because they are ashamed that you are there. Makes one think what did these people think of why these places are historic.

Published in: on 10 August, 2009 at 04:45  Leave a Comment  
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