As the sun sets behind the giant
trees surrounding Abraham Lincoln's Tomb in Oak Ridge
Cemetery, a group of men dressed in dark-blue wool
military uniforms load their rifles in unison and fire
to the fourth beat of a drum.
The group reloads and
waits for the drum signal again. After three volleys,
some in the group fire a Civil War cannon, and three of
the blue-clad soldiers step forward to lower the
American and regimental flags that blow in the slight
wind that swirls around the tomb.
The American flag, folded into a perfect triangle, is
not just taken down for the evening. Rather, it is given
to one of the hundreds of families that typically attend
the weekly retreat ceremony conducted at the tomb by the
114th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry Reactivated.
"We reflect an image of the city by doing this type
of ceremony," said Don Ferricks, who has participated in
the ritual for 23 years. "It brings tourists and shows
the pride and dedication the people of Springfield have,
to come out every week."
The original 114th Illinois Regiment was organized at
Springfield's Camp Butler in the fall of 1862. The unit
fought in the Civil War until 1865 and then was
But the 114th was "reactivated" as a Civil War
re-enactment unit in 1969.The flag lowering and retreat,
conducted at 7 p.m. every Tuesday from June 7 until Aug.
30, is the unit's best-known regular activity.
"I'm fascinated every time I come out here," said
Dave Manion, a nine-year participant. "I'm struck by the
pride we have and really appreciate the history."
The ceremony and retreat include songs played with a
drum and bugle, marching and military configurations,
and the lowering of the flag over the tomb. The members
of the 114th wear copies of Civil War uniforms and fire
blank cartridges from replica rifles.
Throughout the ceremony, the regiment marches to
orders from 1st Lt. Shawn McLane, who has been involved
with the 114th since he was 14 years old.
"I've always had an interest in the Civil War,"
McLane said. "My dad brought me out here (to see the
ceremony) and I've been doing it ever since."
Though the regiment's routine generally is similar to
the original, parts of it have changed over the years,
said Bob Graham, a charter member and colonel of the
regiment. The event previously took place at Lincoln's
Home National Historic Site, but federal law changed so
that gunpowder was not allowed in national parks and
The regiment also used to give away Illinois state
flags rather than the American flag.
"We got to thinking that people from Kansas or
Arkansas wouldn't really care about having an Illinois
flag. So we decided to give away American flags so no
matter where they're from, they can use it," Graham
Members of the unit said giving the flag away is one
of the most special parts of the ceremony.
"When an old veteran gets a flag, you can see a tear
in his eye," Ferricks said. "That really means
Graham said the regiment has about 30 men on its
roster, including six charter members who still are
participating. Many of the men were in the military or
have family who are, and two members have ancestors who
were in the original 114th Regiment.
Their participation in the unit, and their interest
in Civil War events, led several to be cast as soldiers
for battle scenes in TV miniseries "North and
South"(1985) and the movie "Glory"(1989).
"It was an experience I'll never forget," Graham
said. "It's really different if you've never been behind
the scenes. It was unimaginable."
The 114th also does outreach programs in local
schools to teach children the history of the original
regiment and its involvement in the Civil War, as well
as perform private salutes at the graves of servicemen
who have passed away.
Although regiment participation is strictly
voluntary, members said their performance each week is
done not only for personal enjoyment, but also in
remembrance of those who have fought for American
"It helps to keep our heritage alive and the memory
of soldiers from Illinois and from Springfield," McLane