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Evangel professor brings history to life at 150th anniversary ceremony for Battle of Springfield

February 26, 2013 | Ian Richardson


Two men — one suited in a Confederate uniform and the other dressed in Union colors — hold rifles to their shoulders as they accompany their respective flag bearers down a Springfield, Missouri city street.

All appearances set aside, it is not the 1860s. The year is 2013. And these are not truly opposing soldiers, but teacher and student. They are Dr. Larry Toll, associate professor of History at Evangel University, and Brandon Cadwell, senior History major.

Together they represented Evangel in a ceremony recognizing the 150-year anniversary of the Battle of Springfield on January 8, 2013.

According to a program guide distributed by the Springfield-Greene County Library, early January 1863 brought the northbound campaign of Confederate Gen. John Marmaduke into southern Missouri. On January 6, Marmaduke received information that Springfield, a Union supply town at the time, was vulnerable. Two days later, what was meant to be a Confederate surprise attack on a weakly fortified depot turned into a daylong struggle through the streets that ended in a Confederate retreat.

“While Evangel students do not often actively think of the Civil War, it is a part of their history,” Cadwell says. “It is just another piece of history that ties us all together.”

Cadwell began working as a park ranger for Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield two years ago upon recommendation from Dr. Toll, who works as a seasonal interpretive park ranger at Wilson’s Creek in addition to his teaching duties at Evangel.

Cabin Creek Reenactment

Dr. Toll (right) participates in a reenactment at Cabin Creek Battlefield in Oklahoma with former members of the History Club. Toll enjoys introducing students to “living history” events.

During the Battle of Springfield celebration’s opening ceremony, Cadwell and Toll dressed as Civil War soldiers and joined two other Wilson’s Creek representatives to post the flags.

Toll says that while the people of Springfield may not be aware of what took place here in the past, the Battle of Springfield celebration was a good time for people to become inspired about discovering more about history.

“To make that connection, then to come to that realization of ‘Hey, something happened here; this is pretty neat,’ might spark someone’s interest then in the history of the area,” Toll says.

Toll has been involved in battle reenactments, or “living history,” for approximately 31 years. Interested in history from an early age, Toll says he attended his first Civil War reenactment during high school, which piqued his interest in reenactments. He became increasingly involved, and currently, along with working at Wilson’s Creek, Toll travels to participate in reenactments in several states.

Toll also encourages his students to participate in these events.

Virginia Dyer living history

Evangel University alumna Virginia Dyer (’09) was introduced to living history by Dr. Larry Toll at Evangel. She is now a park ranger at Pea Ridge National Military Park in Arkansas.

“I like being able to mentor students and to expose them to the hobby of reenacting,” Toll says. “My students have portrayed soldiers at frontier posts such as Fort Gibson, officers’ wives and laundresses at Fort Scott National Historic Site, and Civil War soldiers at nearby Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield here in Springfield, as well as reenacting Civil War battles in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.”

In the past, one of the main ways Toll has been able to connect students with reenactments is through Evangel’s History Club. Open to any student, faculty member or alumnus in the Evangel community, the only requirement for membership is an interest in history.

Toll says that past activities have included historical movie nights, visits to historic landmarks and participation in living history events. He says the purpose of the club has always been social, not academic in nature, so events are informal.

Toll says students who are interested in history but do not necessarily want to teach can discover employment opportunities and form valuable connections through History Club events. Through contacts gained in History Club events, Toll says that some students have found jobs at places such as Wilson’s Creek.

Cadwell is one example of how students can obtain jobs in history other than teaching.

“Dr. Toll knew that I had a strong public speaking and theater background, and he thought with my degree in History that being a Park Ranger could be a good fit for me,” Cadwell says, “He was absolutely right.”


— Ian Richardson, junior English major from Afton, Iowa

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