By Nancy Nelson, Staff Writer
Norm Kolb and Evan Knapp are a couple of good old boys who enjoy the hobby of Civil War reenacting. Kolb has been interested in the hobby for a number of years, although, he admits, not as long as Knapp.
Knapp became involved in 1960, the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. He helped the Sanford Museum director catalog Civil War items and used the items in his eighth grade history class. In 1988, Knapp attended his first Civil War reenactment and has been hooked ever since.
Knapp and Kolb are part of Company C Iowa 13th Infantry, part of the Iowa Falls Living History Association (IFLHA). Deciding that they were too old to march, they formed a field artillery unit. They call themselves K's Battery.
In order to be in artillery you need a gun, so they set about building an accurate replica of a very early 3 inch ordinance rifle (canon) with smooth boring. They began building the rifle outfit in 2001. Knapp gives the majority building credit to Kolb, saying he is the craftsman of the bunch, operating an auto body repair business.
The gun required research and obtaining parts that were either replicated or scrounged from all over the United States.
Kolb started with schematic drawings from the 1800s which did not provide step-by-step instructions. The drawings were based on a measuring system different than our modern system. He had to track down a ruler that measured in tenths, which he found in Des Moines.
The ammunition box was built of walnut. On the inside of the lid was a liner that measured 20 inches wide. You can't find boards in that width anymore and it just so happened that Chuck Stubbe's dad had a seven foot board that was 20 inches wide that he had saved.
The next step was to order the barrel. It was poured by a founder in Idaho and was shipped in a rough sand casting. Kolb ground and filed the tube to its current finish through hours of work.
Four wheels needed to be built for the gun because they are not typical wagon wheels. They are much larger, about 57 inches in diameter, and are dished to provide less friction. They were built in Tennesee. Kolb, his son Scott, and Knapp made the trip to Tennessee to take delivery of the wheels over a Labor Day weekend and brought them back in a U-Haul trailer.
The final stages of construction included building the limber (cart) that holds the ammunition chest. Kolb built it from oak he salvaged years ago from his old high school in Marcus. He says it's fun to think that the trees the wood came from were probably saplings during the Civil War. The limber is typically pulled by horses or mules with riders rather than a system of wagon reins.
The iron pieces number over 80 pieces and had to be hand made for accuracy. The whole outfit is accurate down to the straight slotted wood screws that turned out to be difficult to find.
Kolb says he has met many nice people all over the country through gathering up the items he needed to complete the project.
Last year on Memorial Day, K's Battery participated in a program at Oak Hill Cemetery in Cherokee. They decided at that time, to plan a rededication marker for this year. They found the most deteriorated grave marker they could find in the oldest area of the cemetery where many veterans are buried.
They did a pencil rubbing on it and only came up with a few letters two of which were 'HA', which Knapp knew meant heavy artillery from the Civil War. The research was continued through city hall to find out who was buried in that spot.
It turned out that Pvt. Sherwood Hinman, who died in 1905, served in the Civil War in the New York 4th Heavy Artillery Co. D. It was coincidence that this particular veteran served in artillery but it made it more fun for Kolb and Knapp.
The Federal government will replace deteriorated veteran markers at no cost but not without a gamut of paperwork and research. This is where Dana Evans, Cherokee County director of Veteran's Affairs entered the process. Kolb and Knapp say he was instrumental in finding the necessary information on their soldier.
Since Evans is from New York he made regular trips home to visit relatives. While there, he did leg work to find more information on Hinman. They tried to find a descendant to invite to the dedication. They could only get as far as his grandson who also served in the military and achieved rank of Lt. General. He died in 1949.
The grave marker has arrived and a special dedication ceremony for Pvt. Sherwood D. Hinman will take place on Sunday evening, May 29, at the Oak Hill Cemetery beginning at 7:30 p.m.
K's Battery will be there with the help of some infantrymen from Company C Iowa 13th Infantry for a symbolic 21 gun salute which will require firing the canon three times.
A men's chorus from the Methodist Men's Choir and other singers from the community will sing "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Mark and Amy Sarchet will sing "The Vacant Chair" in acappella. Taps will be played in echo on trumpets by Ally Sarchet and Krista Hampton. The final touch will be "Amazing Grace" played on bagpipes by Archie McKay from Alta.