Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 18, 2014

Civil War reenactors relive the Skirmish at Jeffersonville

TAZEWELL, Va. — Confederate and Union cannons sent flames and smoke rings skyward as onlookers felt their blasts. Reenactors fired their weapons and sent more smoke into the air as they honored the memory of ancestors who shot at each other with lethal intent 150 years ago.

Civil War reenactors met Saturday in the field across U.S. Route 460 from the Historic Crab Orchard Museum for a battle recreation that gave the audience a sense of life during the War Between the States. The first day of the Skirmish coincided with Virginia’s commemoration of the conflict’s 150th anniversary.

In 1864, the Skirmish at Jeffersonville took place in the area of Wittens Mill Road, said Charlotte Whitted, executive director of the Historic Crab Orchard Museum. Jeffersonville was the former name of Tazewell, Va. It was the closest Civil War engagement in the county, though there was fighting in Saltsville and Wytheville during the war, she added.

Civil War reenactors pay close attention to detail and utilize the same types of uniforms, weapons, equipment and food used during the conflict. In many cases, a reenactor enters the hobby after learning that he or she had relatives who fought for either the Confederacy or the Union. Visitors can also see period encampments.

“We’re like minutemen. We pretty much stay ready to go,” said Confederate reenactor Archie Hess, 48, of Swords Creek, Va.

Hess said that he and other reenactors participate at such events both for fun and to honor their ancestors.

“A lot of us had ancestors in the Civil War. Usually that’s how people get started, through genealogy,” he stated.

Kenneth Collins, 48, of Wise, Va., said he learned that some of his ancestors served in the same Confederate unit he now serves with — the 29th Virginia Infantry.

Women on both sides sometimes put on uniforms and fought alongside men, and reenactors do the same today. Rebecca Burke of Castlewood, Va., walked off the field of battle carrying a musket and wearing Confederate gray.

“A family friend took me to a reenactment, and I fell in love,” she said. She also learned that her great, great-grandfather fought for the Confederacy. “It’s a way to honor your ancestors and family.” The Skirmish continues today.

The museum will be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.  Visitors can see a new exhibit called “Beyond the Battlefield: Camp Life, Home Life & the Aftermath of Civil War,” featuring several noteworthy artifacts on loan from the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, Whitted said. Skirmish attendees with a hand stamp are admitted for $2.50, which is half price off regular museum admission, throughout the weekend, with kids 7-12 $1.00.

Sunday schedule includes an officer’s meeting at 10 a.m.; a tour of the encampment from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; a memorial service for Tracy French at 10:30 a.m.; a war period church service at 11 a.m.; a battlefield reenactment at 2 p.m. followed by battlefield medicine, sponsored by Clinch Valley Medical Center and Patricia Harry; and the event concludes at 3 p.m.

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