Perryville Battlefield Living History Program
“On the Farm - A Kentucky Horse Sale”
June 19-20, 2010
During the last 200 years Kentucky breeders produced some of the greatest thoroughbred, standardbred and saddlebred horses in our country’s history. Perryville’s 2010 On the Farm program will recreate a 19th century horse exhibition and sale.
Horse Sales and the bluegrass
Kentucky’s horse culture is deeply rooted and has been a viable industry within the Commonwealth during the last 200 years. An Antebellum horse industry thrived in the state supplying the nation with a large percentage of horses. The Civil War disrupted this industry as Kentucky suffered from warfare’s continuous drain on the state and its resources. Instability in the Bluegrass during the war prompted many prominent horse breeders to remove their stock from the state and ship them north. Valuable horses were taken by irregular cavalry forces that were continuously raiding the countryside. Several famous race horses and valued breeding stock were stolen and either ransomed back to the farm owner or “ridden to death.”
Saratoga, New York began to rise in prominence as the horse industry shifted north. Horse sales, racing and breeding became a prominent industry in many northern states; however, the manner in which these operations were carried out differed from the traditional Kentucky methods that were employed before the Civil War.
After the war ended, horses were returned to the Bluegrass; however, the horse industry was forever changed. After the close of hostilities many prominent horse breeders hosted large sales and races at their estates throughout Kentucky. One of the most prominent horsemen in Kentucky was Alexander J. Alexander, who owned Woodburn Farm in Woodford County, Kentucky. Mr. Alexander’s sales were legendary and attended by everyone throughout the countryside and occasionally visitors from abroad. These horse sales were the first of their kind and they established the spring sale season in Kentucky. This spring sale season still exists today in the Bluegrass as the Keeneland Spring Sale. The following exert describes Woodburn Farm’s 1869 spring sale:
“The sale took place in a beautiful grove carpeted with the richest blue-grass. All around in every direction the ground was covered with conveyances of every description, and moving throngs of people, intermingled with whom were to be seen a large number of fine equine stock, mostly young colts, each led by its appropriate groom.
As usual this sale was largely attended by gentlemen of wealth and distinction, breeders of fine stock, sporting gentlemen, gentlemen of the press, and in fact, persons of all classes, from all parts of the country from New York to Texas. Quite a number of the ladies also graced the interesting occasion with their charming, civilizing and refining presence. The number of gentlemen from other states was unusually large. Among the distinguished personages present were Gen. John C. Breckenridge, Gen. Custer, Hon. G.W. Woodward, of Pennsylvania; Gen. Harding, of Tennessee; Col. M.H. Sanford of New York; Col S.D. Bruce, of New York: Charles Lloyd, Esp., of New Jersey; Hon. T.J. Megibben, of Kentucky and a great crew of others, too numerous to mention in a brief resume like this.”
The sales were very much like bazaars. The sale incorporated many different aspects of life during the period, including an odd mix of politics, gambling, religion and food. One of the most important features of the event was the preparation and serving of the traditional “Burgoo.” Burgoo has been associated with Kentucky horse events since the Civil War and can be purchased today at the Keeneland Race Course. It is known world wide as a traditional Kentucky dish, although the recipe varies from cook to cook. The Lexington Herald Newspaper describes the burgoo served at Woodburn Farm and its preparer - the famous “Burgoo King.”
Historic impressions are to be maintained throughout the entire event.
This event’s impression will be post Civil War civilians and U.S. military only and semi-immersion. All participants are encouraged to do first person, but may develop a third person conversation with the visiting public. This will allow the visitor to better understand the scenarios. Interaction between guests and participants is highly recommended.
Opportunities to Participate
Participants will portray visitors to a large “Bluegrass Farm and Stock Sale.” Scenarios will include a mock horse auction, horse races and a horse show with prizes awarded. Participants are encouraged to bring other animals to trade or sell. Chickens, ducks, geese, cattle, hogs and sheep were often sold or traded at these gatherings.
Each gentleman will be assigned a persona and allotted funds for the weekend. These funds will be used to purchase horses, participate in racing and other scenarios. Ladies will also be assigned a persona however, those who intend to invest in horses and horse activities will need to have a gentlemen agent present to purchase horses. You may request an alter-ego of a certain social status; however, once slots are filled we will assign the alter-egos on a first come – first served basis. .
Ladies are encouraged to attend the auction and races. Ladies who are properly mounted or have a driving cart may participate in an organized ride by the Crimson Ladies Riding Society. Additionally, food items and hand work will be exhibited and judged for prizes.
Although this is not a county fair it will be very much a bazaar atmosphere so merchants and entertainers are welcome.
These are some suggested impressions: farm owners, breeders, farm managers, grooms, stable boys, artists, trainers, horse agents, jockeys, farmers, ladies riding club, visiting guests, merchants, gamblers, and entertainers. The sales were a gathering place for everyone in the county. Impressions can range from society elite to farm laborers and their families. When developing an impression keep in mind that the Civil War had only been over for 4 years and many of those involved in the “horse business” served on opposite sides during the war.
You will receive information on your persona before you arrive for the event either via email or postal package. Participants will receive the living history packet at registration.
Registration is required. Please see fee schedule below. Registration closes on June 4, 2010. Register on-line at www.perryvillebattlefield.org click on - On the Farm under Events. You may also return form by mail with fees enclosed. All registration fees go to the Friends of Perryville Battlefield.
Fee Schedule: $15.00 per participant.
Children under 12 free.
We are looking forward to your participation at Perryville Battlefield. We hope to make your experience here educational as well as enjoyable. Please visit our website at www.perryvillebattlefield.org for event information and registration.
Beverly Simpson (firstname.lastname@example.org). You may also visit the civilian discussion forum http://groups.yahoo.com/group/perryvillecivilianevents/