WILTON, Iowa—In 2000, five-year-old Jordan Elshoff attended his first ever Civil War reenactment in Keokuk and felt entranced by what he saw. As he grew up, he kept going to reenactments across the region, and in 2010, he took up reenacting himself, portraying a corporal in the Third Iowa Cavalry. “I got to a point where I wanted to reenact, and I found a group in Muscatine and have been doing it ever since,” he shared.
An outside shipping and material handler for Musco by day, Elshoff enjoys taking time to participate in reenactments in his free time. In the summer of 2020, he attended an event in Mason City that gave him the opportunity to act in his first historical film.
While at the Mason City reenactment, Elshoff met another reenactor playing Ulysses S. Grant in the movie “Letters Home,” telling the story of the Civil War from the perspectives of two young soldiers. The reenactor thought Elshoff bore a striking resemblance to General William Tecumseh Sherman and later told the movie’s screen writer, Denny Dardeen. After Dardeen saw a photo of Elshoff, he knew he wanted him to feature as Sherman in the movie.
In early March, Elshoff traveled to southern Illinois to film his scenes for the movie. He found the prospect exciting and not exactly like performing in an in-person reenactment. For the first time, Elshoff played a general and had a speaking role. “This was a new experience for me, especially being a general,” he stated. Rather than rush into the thick of the battle reenactments like a typical cavalry soldier, Elshoff had more of what he described as a, “behind the scenes,” role.
He also found having a film crew on hand made shooting the movie a novel experience. “It was different having cameras on you,” he said.
Though Elshoff completed his filming over the course of a weekend, work on “Letters Home” continued even after he returned home. Currently, Titan Entertainment, the company that produced the film, hopes to finish and release it by September. Ideally, Elshoff would like to see the film have a theatrical release, though he considers it more likely that a cable network, such as the History Chanel, or a streaming service will pick it up and make it available for home audiences to enjoy.
Reflecting on the experience, Elshoff considered getting to play Sherman both an honor and something he never expected to have the chance to do. “It’s kind of humbling,” he mused.