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Hear the story of the U.S. Civil War from a ‘veteran’

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By Bonnie Strassell

It’s been called the War of Northern Aggression, the Civil War, the War Between the States, and the War of Rebellion. Perhaps the most poignant name given to this tragic time in our country’s history is the Boys’ War. Boys, some as young as 12 and from all areas of the country — including Owen County — joined the fight. Although they were familiar with firearms and their bodies were hardened by toil, nothing could prepare these young men for the carnage, disease, and devastation wrought by war. Owen countians James Mason, W.E. Jones, Joshua Wallace, John Witt, John Thornton, Spencer Thomas, William Hayden, and so many others never returned home, dying on battlefields far from family and friends. Thomas A. Moss was one of the lucky ones. He fought in Perryville and Stone River, then was commissioned a regimental blacksmith, returning home to Owen County where he died at the age of 97.
Others came back and served in politics. G.R. Caldwell became justice of the peace in Owen County, and Thomas Ireland served as clerk of court for 12 years. J.C. Hartsough, who joined the Orphan Brigade at age 16, returned home to Owen, took up the business of undertaking, and built a lovely house on Main Street, which today is home to the historical society museum.
Books on the Civil War have been written and movies have been produced depicting its many facets; but it’s the stories of returning soldiers that have lingered to provide us with the most vivid description of the war. James — aka master storyteller Bill Watson — is one such soldier.
He is the special guest at the historical society meeting, which takes place at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 10, at the I.O.O.F. Hall. James is a 90-year-old Confederate veteran, and he tells his story, fraught with both humor and sorrow, of life for the common soldier caught up in the conflict.
Retired as pastor of First Christian Church in Owenton, Bill has been telling stories since the day he first learned to talk but has been a professional storyteller for 25 years. Although his stories are varied, his “My Name Is James” has won critical acclaim throughout Kentucky. The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in Louisville has named Bill the Arts Education Showcase 2010/2011 Storyteller award-winner. 
His programs meets core standards for history and drama for grades 5-12 in Kentucky, and Bill has developed a curriculum for teachers. Don’t miss this compelling program as “James” takes you back in time to unforgettable places, and introduces you to the life of a Civil War soldier as he struggles to come to grips with war and its destruction.
The historical society would like to extend our appreciation to Christy Kennedy for her donation to the museum of an eight-piece silver tea set which belonged to her grandmother.
Our yearly dues are beginning to trickle in, and we are grateful to society members who have made this commitment. If you still owe dues, please pay as soon as possible, for our society depends on the dedication of its members to continue to realize our vision.
Anyone who would like to donate used ink cartridges is asked to please drop them off at the museum. If we are closed, just slide them in the mail slot. The society can receive a small refund if we return used ink cartridges.
On days when the Owen County School System is closed due to bad weather, the museum will also close. But spring is just around the corner (or so we hope) and with it comes new plans for ways in which the Owen County Historical Society can better serve our community.