OWENSBORO, Ky. — Owensboro was an occupied city 150 years ago, with Union soldiers stationed at the courthouse, making regular patrols throughout the city searching for Confederates and Confederate sympathizers.
Next month, Owensboro will remember those days with three days of Civil War-themed programs — Owensboro-Daviess County Remembers: The Civil War — at the RiverPark Center, Daviess County Public Library, Owensboro Museum of Fine Art and Owensboro Museum of Science and History.
Actor Harry Anderson, best known for his role in the "Night Court" from 1984 to 1992; director Robby Henson; and Michael Crutcher, who portrays abolitionist Frederick Douglass, will be among those participating in the festival.
Activities start on Feb. 6 and run through Feb. 8.
Karen Miller Porter, who's spearheading the celebration, said the event is a collaboration of the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, RiverPark Center, Owensboro Museum of Fine Art, Daviess County Public Library, Owensboro Museum of Science and History, the NAACP and the Owensboro-Daviess County African American Faith Community.
The events will look at the role Owensboro and Kentucky "played in that horrific war," she told those attending a Thursday news conference at the science and history museum.
Jim Naas, a Civil War historian and re-enactor, said, "It amazes me that we were able to pull together the number of people we have."
He said, "It's easy to forget how critical Kentucky was during the Civil War. President Lincoln said, ‘I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.' "
Events begin at the library at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 6 with Susan Dyer, who has spearheaded efforts in Breckinridge County to renovate the historic mansion of Judge Joseph Holt, discussing the life of the man who presided over the trial of three men and a woman who were found guilty of conspiracy in the assassination of Lincoln.
At 7 p.m., Crutcher, who portrayed Douglass at the national Emancipation Day Celebration in September, will speak as Douglass at the Neblett Center.
At 7:30 that night at Brescia University, Kimberly A. Miller-Spillman, an associate professor in the University of Kentucky's School of Human Environmental Sciences, will discuss "Civil War Re-enactors: Political Issues Expressed Through Dress."
At 9 a.m. Feb. 7, the Kentucky Historical Society's History Mobile will be at the science and history museum. People can tour its exhibit, "Torn Within and Threatened Without: Kentuckians and the Civil War Era."
Roughly 2,000 children from area schools will visit the RiverPark Center from 9 a.m. to noon that day to see Civil War exhibits including a cannon crew of re-enactors as well as re-enactors portraying Lincoln, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Douglass.
At 10 a.m., Nell Jordan will discuss Civil War quilts at the library.
Also at 10 a.m., the art museum will open a photography exhibit documenting the 1861 Battle of Sacramento re-enactments. Civil War art and artifacts from local collections will also be showcased. And the museum's John Hampden Smith House, built during the Civil War era, will be furnished with decorative art from the mid-19th century.
At the science and history museum at 10 a.m., a group of topographical engineers will be drawing up plans for "Fort Breckenridge, a mythical fort designed to protect Owensboro from the Union Army," Naas said.
At noon, the library will screen the 1995 movie, "Pharaoh's Army," which stars Kris Kristofferson. Henson, the director, will discuss the movie after the screening.
From 6 to 8 p.m., the fine art museum will feature a public reception with dramatic readings of Civil War letters by actors in period dress.
At 8:15 p.m., the RiverPark Center will show the 2003 movie, "Gods and Generals," about the early years of the Civil War. A discussion will follow the movie.
On Feb. 8, activities begin at 10 a..m. at the library with a "School of the Solider," designed for children ages 5 to 12. Re-enactor Dennis Hutchinson will discuss the daily life of the Civil War solider, demonstrate and teach drills and commands and display uniforms and artifacts.
Also at 10 a.m., the topographical engineers will continue working on plans for "Fort Breckenridge" at the science and history museum.
The History Mobile will also be open at the science and history museum from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. that day.
The fine art museum will continue its Battle of Sacramento exhibit that day beginning at 10 a.m.
At noon, a "Ladies Luncheon" at the Campbell Club will re-create a Civil War meal. Period dress is encouraged. Historian Aloma Dew will speak on the role of Owensboro women in the Civil War.
The 1993 movie "Gettysburg," will be shown at 2:30 p.m. at the RiverPark Center, followed by a discussion about the movie.
At 7:30 p.m. at the RiverPark Center, the Owensboro Symphony will perform the Kentucky premiere of Rick Stephenson's Civil War piece, "Two Brothers." Anderson and Todd Reynolds, a local actor, will narrate. Re-enactors portraying the Lincolns, Davises and Douglasses will attend
It's not in Owensboro, but on Feb. 9, the National Park Service's Lincoln Boyhood Home in Spencer County, Ind., will present, "Lincoln Day," with an honor guard from the Sons of Union Veterans.