When walking up to Fort D on certain days, you can feel the atmosphere change. Being this close to history, especially when it’s in your own backyard, is humbling.
According to Patti House and Jerry Kasten, two of the Fort D volunteers and re-enactors, there are many residents of Cape Girardeau that do not know about Fort D. House and Kasten both note many instances in which local Fort D visitors have remarked that they never knew how much history was so close to home.
Mrs. House and her husband, Scott, and Mr. Kasten and his wife, Ruth, were just four of the volunteers out at Fort D early on a Friday morning preparing for a tour by schoolchildren. Additional visitors began to wander into the Fort, which is a frequent occurrence, according the four. Among the visitors were a family of four and two couples, one of which said mentioned that they were on their honeymoon.
The Kastens and Houses have been volunteering as re-enactors at Fort D since 2005. The first Fort D Days was held in 2006, and it has since become an annual event.
Mr. House explained to the family about the guns used back in the Civil War, along with using his own gun to show the process of cleaning, with Mr. Kasten by his side. Mrs. House and Kasten were both playing games with the children, such as Mrs. Kasten playing stickball with one young girl.
Fort and re-enactment volunteers all dressed in Civil War regalia. Mrs. House said that the female volunteers can generally make their own costumes, but the men have to have their Civil War-era uniforms ordered in from a company. Mr. Kasten said that getting dressed up in the wool uniform was generally a daunting task, but not compared to wearing the leather boots that the men generally wore during bigger events. He joked about wearing black sneakers instead of boots with some of the schoolchildren touring the Fort.
Mr. Kasten showed off a variety of items that are kept in the Fort’s storage room, such as the cannon sometimes used for demonstrations, photos of the Fort when it was used as a Girl Scout recreation center and when it was a senior citizen’s center, and many other items from the Civil War era. Mrs. House also mentioned that Mr. Kasten had helped do some of the woodworking, such as a cart inside the storage room, and Mr. Kasten also said that he had made another cannon in his spare time.
The volunteers for Fort D are also a part of the Tuner Brigade, a Civil War re-enactment group based out of St. Louis, with both of the Houses also serving on the Brigade’s membership committee. They additionally are members of the Civil War Roundtable of Cape Girardeau. These men and women make very big sacrifices to keep the memory of our forefathers alive and well in Cape Girardeau and across Missouri.
For more information on Fort D, please visit the Fort D Historical website, or visit cityofcape.org/fortd. If you would like to schedule a tour, please contact the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau by calling 573-335-1631 or 800-777-0068.
Fort D is located at 720 Fort Street in Cape Girardeau, and self-guided tours may be taken on the grounds at any time.