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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Battle of Marshall 150th: Local photographer breathes life into Civil War icon

Friday, September 28, 2012

Local photographer Bill Westbrook portrays photojournalism pioneer Mathew Brady at a recent meeting of the Battle of Marshall commemoration steering committee. Westbrook is offering to present his Brady persona to local clubs and organizations to promote the upcoming Battle of Marshall activities.
(Eric Crump/Democrat-News) [Order this photo]
Mathew Brady settled into a chair at Windmill Gallery in Marshall Thursday, Sept. 13, camera in hand, and began to tell his story.

"I am the father of photojournalism," he said. "I was originally a frame-maker, but Samuel Morse taught me photography."

He talked for a few minutes about the painstaking, multi-step process required to take photos during the 1860s, when his work documenting the battles of the Civil War really launched his career.

For a 190-year-old, he was doing pretty well.

After discussing issues and events of the war, Brady confessed there was one battle he did not photograph: The Battle of Marshall.

But local photographer and retired history teacher Bill Westbrook, who portrayed Brady, does know a few things about Saline County's biggest Civil War battle and the plans for a year-long commemoration of the battle's 150th anniversary.

Westbrook was doing a run-through of a living history presentation he developed to help promote Battle of Marshall commemoration events.

Even though no large-scale battles were fought in this part of Missouri, for Marshall's ancestors, the war years were a grim experience.

"Brutality reigned up and down the border" with Kansas, Westbrook said. "This was Little Dixie. People around here participated in the effort to make Kansas a slave state."

One of those local Missourians was Joseph Shelby, a Waverly land owner who participated in the Border War raids and eventually became a general in the Confederate Army.

Shelby's encounter at Marshall with Union forces will be the subject of a battle recreation event in September 2013, but leading up to that event will be a series of lectures, demonstrations and presentations that will include period music, food, clothing and weaponry in addition to stories about the battle, the Civil War in the Boonslick region and life in Saline County during the war years.

Westbrook in his Mathew Brady persona is available to visit with service organizations, clubs, school assemblies and anyone who is interested in learning more about local history and about the commemoration events.

The commemoration kick-off event is planned for Saturday, Nov. 10, on the Saline County Courthouse lawn.

The event will include remarks by local dignitaries, and a special air-powered cannon provided by the Missouri State Museum that lets children get hands-on experience with period-style artillery.

There will also be a real cannon demonstration by Robinson's Light Artillery.

Following the demonstrations, there will be a lecture by historian James Denny in the Wood & Huston Community Room on the north side of the Marshall square.

Editor's note: The author is a member of the Battle of Marshall 150th Anniversary Commem-oration planning committee.

Contact Eric Crump at ecrump@marshallnews.com


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I wonder if this is the same Bill Westbrook that was my neighbor when he started his photography in his basement. His Dad made gutters in a garage behind his house, if it is the same person that I knew as a kid. I lived at 304 E. Rea and my name is Bob Thomas. Not many of us are left.

-- Posted by rwt1118 on Sat, Jun 8, 2013, at 6:17 PM

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