Mike Church wakes up on a battlefield, puts on his Civil War-era Federal army uniform and saddles his horse.
For the past 30 years, Mike has led the United States Volunteer Federal Regiment. When Mike puts on his colonel’s uniform for a re-enactment, he becomes a different man. He’s ready for battle.
“You can win a battle sometimes by retreating," Mike says. "You can win a battle by being a super aggressive guy and punching them in the face. You gotta know when to do what.”
Mike learned when to do what from both personal battles and from re-enacting Civil War battles. After his first wife of 23 years battled a neurological disease for more than five years before dying, he fought his loss by starting a new life. He randomly put his finger on a map, landed on Cynthiana, and bought a farm in Harrison County where Civil War history is rich and abundant. The Battle of Cynthiana was fought here in 1864.
Since moving to Cynthiana in 2011, he’s been preserving history through the cavalry while rewriting his own, whether it’s on his 109-acre farm or on the battlefield.
"I'm all in or I'm all out," Mike says. "There is no halfway with me. You know, it's not two animals on the farm, it's 85 animals on the farm; it's not one dog in the house, it's five dogs in the house."
Most of the time, Mike approaches life head-on. He works full-time for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, manages the farm without any employees, and according to his second wife, Kristin, whom he met through Civil War re-enacting, they're hardly home. Whether it's a monthly re-enactment, restoring a historic hotel in downtown Cynthiana or hanging out with his friends and family, Mike is fighting to help others.
“I like to be a person that can fix things, that can make people happy. . . I like to be the white knight, you know, coming in and saving the day. And again that’s an arrogance thing, and it’s not real attractive to admit, but it’s the truth.”
On the battlefield this weekend, Mike moves through the camp chatting with his "cav fam" and catching up on the month they've spent away from each other, barking orders and giving hugs along the way. He's the man who approves every request, from who will picket the horses to who needs extra hay to keep warm at night. Still, he has a different fight on his mind.
"I think I’ve had some wins and I think I’ve had some losses," Mike says. "You know my parents are both in really bad health and when I lose them, it’s going to be really tough. I don’t know how I’m going to take that actually."
Moments later he trots his horse onto the battlefield with unwavering confidence to strategize how the cavalry will defeat the Confederates the next day.