Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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June 16, 2013

Citizens become historians for living history event

GLEN LYN, Va. — The report of a 12-pound field howitzer echoed through the steep hills surrounding the New River Valley, as a gun crew with the Floyd, Va., 1st Stuart Horse Artillery fired a single volley from the polished cannon.

The gun crew responded to the commands of Captain Jeff Link, carefully bringing the gunpowder charge to the cannon, as crew members load, tamp, charge and prepare to fire. The music at the Henry Reed Fiddlers Convention, also at Glen Lyn Park, paused briefly during the demonstration.

“We formed this battery in 2001,” Link said between shots at a cannon demonstration. “We do this living history to provide people with a better understanding of what life was like 150 years ago. Almost everyone that you meet knows their history.” When he’s not participating in living history demonstrations, Link operates a plumbing business.

The 1st Stuart Horse Artillery will be busy this summer. On Saturday, June 22, the battery will be in Pembroke, Va., to fire a round from the Post Office in recognition of Clate Dolinger, 73, who served as Pembroke’s barber for 52 years. The new Gettysburg stamp features a photograph that includes images of Dolinger’s great-great grandfather, his grandmother’s great uncle and his great uncle.

“That’s one of the most famous pictures from Gettysburg,” Dolinger said of the Matthew Brady photo of three Confederate prisoners of war that were pressed into service by the Union Army after the battle to identify dead Confederate soldiers. “All of the rest of the pictures of that battle were of dead soldiers,” Dolinger said.

Dolinger spotted the photo in the Pembroke Post Office and immediately recognized his kinsmen. His Grandmother, Molly Baldwin Dolinger, shared stories of his ancestors in the war. The three Confederates, Andrew Z. Blevins, his grandfather of the 30th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, John R. Baldwin of the 50th Virginia Infantry Regiment and Ephriam Blevins of the 37th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, were captured at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The three soldiers were taken to a Prisoner of War camp in Delaware, where they were held until the end of the war. “My grandmother said that when Andrew Blevins was coming home, he heard Nancy Blevins playing a fiddle tune they called ‘Nancy Blevins,’” he said. “The radio station down at Galax still plays that tune, ‘Nancy Blevins,’ sometimes.”

When some scholars questioned how a person could recognize family members in a 150-year-old photo, Dolinger took family photos to noted Civil War James I. Robertson who authenticated his claim. “Bud Robertson looked at the pictures and said I was right.”

The Postal Service will present a poster of the famous Gettysburg image to Dolinger in Pembroke on June 22. Link said that on the following weekend, the 1st Stuart Horse Artillery will be headed to Gettysburg for the 150th anniversary of that battle.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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