I turned to see a smoking cannon. I was shocked. We were standing by a field witnessing the reenactment of a Civil War Battle for the 150th commemoration of the War’s beginning. It was also in the spring that West Virginia became a State 148 years ago.
With white tents dotted across the hillsides and smoking wood fires interspersed among them, it felt exactly like we had gone back to the time of the Civil War. The realistic-looking tents were also waterproof, which allowed the reenactors to actually camp for the three days of the event. Wood was split and stacked by the tents. Horses came and went among the regiments. Cannons were positioned on the surrounding hill. The reenactors not only impersonated the generals and captains but doctors and nurses, blacksmiths, tailors and spies. Every uniform was made with historical accuracy in mind. It was amazing!
They used the uniforms and equipment of the soldiers on the battlefield and the day-to-day work clothes worn in the camp. For example, the blacksmith, hammering at the forge wore a loose long-sleeved white shirt. Hoop skirts were everywhere. And hats varied from Abe Lincoln’s top hat to the little forward-facing felt kepis and bummers for the soldiers.
One interesting thing to learn was about the saber. Infantry men carried sharp swords and bayonets for hand-to-hand combat. The cavalry on the other hand were armed with heavy sabers. Saber are not even sharp! They were used to disable opponents on the ground with a direct downward stroke on the collarbone.
The most memorable part of the day was meeting the men who impersonated Jackson, Lincoln and Lee. They looked just like real. We also met a friendly officer by the name of “Extra Billy Smith”. He impersonated a stagecoach owner and he told us the story of how he got his name, as well as letting us try on his uniform. Each person was knowledgeable—they left no question unanswered. They were friendly and it was evident they enjoyed their role. It was a great learning experience and fun day together.