Linwood Cemetery chapel to re-enact Battle of Columbus on Easter

The Easter service will be held with enemy soldiers approaching.

Those gathered in the small church know loved ones and friends are likely to die. Some sitting in the pews this day also might not survive.

The year is 1865. Union soldiers are headed toward Columbus where they will clash with Confederates in what will be remembered as the last land battle of the Civil War.

It is the day of the Battle of Columbus.

"We want people to know what it was like to be in a local church that Easter morning 150 years ago," the Rev. Richard Gardiner said.

He and other area residents will dress in the garb of the era Sunday and take on the roles of people who were here back then during a special "The Calm Before the Storm" re-enactment program.

Presented by the Historic Linwood Foundation, it will be 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Linwood Cemetery's Franklin Hadley Lummus Memorial Chapel built in 1890.

It is free to the public.

While the program features an invocation and congregational hymn, it will not be a complete Easter service. During the presentation, performers involved will discuss the day ahead, their worries, their emotions and their ideas.

While there is some script, it is not a play.

"Everyone in the audience can contribute to the conversation and ask questions, but they have to remember it is 1865 and must speak as if they are living at that time," Gardiner said.

During the program, the performers will tell what happened to them during and after the battle.

"Many of the people portrayed and Confederate soldiers, who died in the battle, are buried in Linwood. We can visit their graves after the program," Gardiner said.

Though considered the final land battle of the Civil War, it was actually fought after Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered. In fact, it happened after President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated.

"The people involved had not heard the news," Gardiner said.

It was on April 9, Palm Sunday, that Lee surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theater in Washington on April 14, which was Good Friday. He died the next day.

Union Gen. James Wilson was under the assumption fighting was still going strong. His mission was to destroy the Confederate supply centers in Alabama and Georgia.

Columbus was an industrial complex, a hub of military manufacturing and naval construction.

Wilson has already captured the Alabama cities of Selma and Montgomery when he attacked Columbus on April 16.

Gardiner said fighting was conducted on both sides of the Chattahoochee River. The first line of defense was in Phenix City, then known as Girard. A lot of fighting took place near the Dillingham Street Bridge.

Much in Columbus was destroyed. The remains of a warship, the ironclad CSS Jackson, can be seen at the National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus on Victory Drive.

"Columbus merchants formed a brigade. So did members of the fire department. There were others. People knew Wilson's Raiders were coming and I am sure that was the main topic of discussion that Easter," Gardiner said.

Gardiner, program director for history education at Columbus State University and associate pastor at The Rock Presbyterian Church, will portray the Rev. Winfield Wright Robison, whose son, Alexander Winfield Robison, was killed in the Battle of Columbus. The young man was wearing his brother's Confederate uniform that day. The brother had been severely wounded in a previous battle.

Jane Brady is executive director of the Historic Linwood Foundation and past president of the Lizzie Rutherford Chapter 60 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. She will portray Mary Ann Williams, who is credited with being the driving force behind the creation of a Confederate Memorial Day, which Gardiner said led to the national Memorial Day we celebrate today.

"She has an interesting story," said Brady, who will lead the hymn.

Brady said the Linwood program fits in well with the sesquicentennial remembrance of the Civil War.

"It will be educational and entertaining. The sunrise is gorgeous here at Linwood," she said.

WCGQ DJ Damon Free will play Lt. Joseph J. Jones, who is killed in the conflict. Jones was shot and died in the street near the Chattahoochee National Bank.

A lieutenant with the Typo Guards, a company of printers which had been formed and mustered into service for home defense, Jones was a reporter for the Columbus Enquirer.

At a rehearsal, Free laughed and said his outfit made him look like Abraham Lincoln,

John S. Pemberton was a lieutenant colonel in the 12th Calvary Regiment, Georgia State Guard during the battle.

Gardiner said that at the 14th Street bridge, Pemberton was slashed with a saber across the chest. Pemberton survived and later created Coca-Cola.

Pemberton will be played by Chris O'Pry, a history education major at CSU.

"I think this is really something different," Brady said. "People will still have time to attend then go to an Easter service elsewhere."