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Cannonball House shot anniversary commemorated

On July 30, 1864, the Civil War landed on the front porch of a Mulberry Street home in Macon.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the shelling of the home now known as the Cannonball House, visitors Saturday saw a re-enactment of event that gave the home its name. Union troops near the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds fired a shell into the city that landed at the residence of Judge Asa Holt.

Saturday’s skit was less dramatic but more historically accurate than the first re-enactment done two years ago. In the previous re-enactment, Holt’s wife and a servant were in the house when the shell hit.

However, in the past two years research has shown that no one was home at the time, said Earl Colvin, director of the Cannonball House. Nora Holt, they learned, was at one of the local hospitals helping treat injured Confederate troops.

“We are always learning something new,” he said. “We wanted to make it historically accurate.”

This time the re-enactment began with Holt’s wife rushing in through the back door with a friend after they had heard about the shelling. They went to the front entrance and found the shell in the hallway, which had turned out to be a dud and never exploded.

Jennifer O’Kelly portrayed Nora Holt and Brenda Dobson portrayed her friend. A couple of men soon arrived and took the shell away.

In a panic over the incident, Holt immediately decided to go to Louisville, where her husband was at their plantation. She thought she was escaping the Union advance, said narrator Joel Whitehead Jr., but in fact was headed right toward it.

A few years ago, research determined that it was not a cannonball that struck the house, but an artillery shell.

About a dozen people attended the morning re-enactment, following the performers through the house in what amounted to a mobile play. A second performance was held in the afternoon.

One of those watching the first performance was Mark Baxter, a member of the Cannonball House board of directors. He said the event was important because most Civil War re-enactments show only the military.

“This shows the personal side of it,” he said. “You want the next generation to be able to see what those who came before us experienced.”

The military side of the attack on the Cannonball House will be held next Saturday. About 70 re-enactors will be at Ocmulgee National Monument commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Dunlap Hill. They will demonstrate Civil War military camps, as well as cannon firing.

The Cannonball House is a Confederate museum that receives no government funding.

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