Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

April 26, 2014

Jeffersonville Skirmish will recognize 150th anniversary of 1864 battle

— — If you thought the Jeffersonville Skirmish had been fought and won before you found out about it, don’t worry. The annual get-together down at the Historic Crab Orchard Museum and Pioneer Park will take place on May 16-18. This year’s event ran into not a stone wall, but Easter, and so museum executive director Charlotte Whitted and her staff wisely decided that that the standard mid-April date should be moved forward one month.

After this long winter of our discontent, that will hopefully make for a better weather situation. Warmer temperatures, the successful completion of area proms at the local high schools, and a variety of related issues should come together quite nicely with the later date on the calendar. Make your plans now to be there for one of the area’s most unique weekends.

Since this is a cultural heritage event, the museum always plans for school children to come down and learn a little more about Tazewell County. The Ratcliffe Foundation has provided a grant to enable 400 county children to attend the Friday, May 16 Skirmish Day for free.

Joan Yates is the educational director at the museum and she is, as usual, very excited about the chance to entertain and enlighten the kiddies. Joan notes that the fourth grade is a key year for the children to enhance their knowledge. She correctly points out that 2014 is the 150th year anniversary of many Civil War events and since more than 60 percent of the war was fought in Virginia, the history is to be found all over our part of the world.

When those fourth graders come down to the park, they will get a chance to observe battlefield life, with drills, blacksmithing, black powder demonstrations, cannon firing, music making, open hearth cooking, and stories told by both Confederate and Union (U.S. Army) soldiers. One unique event of the Saturday, May 17, presentation will be a session with veteran historian and re-enactor Al Stone, who will be portraying General Robert E. Lee. Stone has traveled across America and has taken part in many presentations including several television productions. The popular ladies tea and the graceful ball dancing event will again be part of the Skirmish.

The Jeffersonville Skirmish Band will provide the music. Of course, the battle re-enactments will be the centerpiece of the weekend. On both Saturday and Sunday the battles will be held at 2 p.m.

Of course, the museum staff always has a related exhibit to entertain visitors to the grounds located adjacent to U.S. Route 460 at Pisgah. The 2014 exhibit is called “Beyond the Battlefield: Camp Life, Home Life, and Aftermath of the Civil War.” This will be on display in the Lucie Greever Gallery.

Whitted says that since this is the sesquicentennial of the war, the entire museum staff has been working overtime to make as many connections from the local area as possible. She and her team have endeavored to show everyone just how the conflict affected lives locally. It sounds very creative. For example, soldier games from the camps will be a part of the project.

There is an interactive section where visitors can practice their marble shooting skills. A variety of interesting artifacts are on loan from the National Civil War Museum. These include a prosthetic limb, medical instruments, a field desk, and medicines. Another unique feature is what the museum believes are items made by slaves: a pen with an inkwell. These were found in a pouch hidden behind a loose brick in the Chilhowie Town House many years ago.

As students and historians are well aware, it would have been illegal in the South for any slave to know how to write or to possess any writing tools. It is a very touching glimpse into the sad part of American history we are still trying to resolve nearly two centuries later.

I encourage any and all local historians and/or history buffs of all ages to come by and take part in this amazing weekend on May 16-18. As either a visitor or a participant, the opportunity is there to learn and have a great experience at the same time. You will find the staff is well prepared, well informed and anxious to make your visit a memorable one. Since few of us are likely to be around for the “next” 150th anniversary, this is yet another reason to take part while the opportunity exists.

I have had the chance to work on several school projects with Ms. Whitted and her staff including a 100th anniversary dinner for the sinking of the RMS Titanice, a unique program involving American literature with student performances by Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Phyllis Wheatley, and Emily Dickinson, among others. They always manage to make any visit down there a great event for all concerned.

See ya at the skirmish!

Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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