Friday, June 22, 2018
News Roundup

Artillery coordinator works hard to make Brooksville Raid a show

Bob Gomillion knows what it will take to put on a good show for the spectators at this weekend's annual Brooksville Raid Civil War re-enactment.

As coordinator of the artillery forces who set up their cannons and fire the opening volleys across the battlefield, he knows the value of a lot of boom.

It never fails to get his heart beating faster.

"It's exciting, no matter how long you've been around it," said Gomillion, of Wesley Chapel. "When you start hearing those cannons, the adrenaline starts pumping. You know it's time to get moving."

However, Gomillion's role as a re-enactor goes beyond his interest in big guns. As a lieutenant colonel and adjutant, he's the No. 3 man in the Florida re-enactment group known as Hardy's Brigade, which includes three Confederate infantry battalions and six artillery units.

It's a big job. Gomillion oversees promotions within the ranks, takes care of re-enactor registration and delivers directives to and from brigade commander Gen. Mike Hardy.

"I'm pretty much working the entire time I'm there," said Gomillion, 70, a retired Army major. "But I'm used to it. I wouldn't know what to do if I wasn't busy."

Although he's part of the brigade's brass, Gomillion knows what it's like in the trenches. When he joined the brigade as a cook 11 years ago, he spent most of his time preparing meals for upward of 40 soldiers in his battalion.

A member of Milton's Light Artillery, Gomillion quickly mastered operating a mountain howitzer, a lightweight field gun capable of hurling a 12-pound ordnance shell more than 300 yards. In time, Gomillion eventually took over leading the unit.

Another of his duties is the paying out of "powder fees" to registered artillery companies to help offset the cost of black powder used by the cannons. During a typical weekend, a cannoneer may use more than 18 pounds of black powder, at a cost of about $200. Raid organizers typically pay about $125 per cannon.

"It's gotten to be an expensive activity," Gomillion said. "Any help these folks can get is always appreciated."

He said the struggling economy has taken its toll on the Civil War re-enactment community. Events less popular than the Brooksville Raid find it difficult to attract more than a couple hundred participants.

However, the Brooksville Raid continues to attract about 1,500 re-enactors every year, making it one of the largest Civil War re-enactments in the Southeast.

"It's the one everyone wants to be part of, especially if they live in Florida, Georgia or Alabama," Gomillion said. "People tell us they look forward to it because it's very well organized and it's always a lot of fun.

"That's pretty much true for the people who come to watch. They always want to come back."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]

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