Vir­ginia High­lands Fest of­fers recre­ation of lo­cal bat­tles

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JESS NOCERA

ABINGDON, VA. | White tents, Con­fed­er­ate flags and Civil War sol­diers cov­ered the Abingdon Muster Grounds on July 29.

The Civil War may have ended over 150 years ago, but for the past six years, parts of it have been com­ing back to life at the Abingdon Civil War Week­end on the nine acres of the Muster Grounds.

“It’s a free liv­ing his­tory event based on the Civil War,” said re-en­ac­tor and event co­or­di­na­tor Stephen Wolfs­berger. “We host it at the Muster Grounds be­cause it was a gallery place for Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers go­ing off to war, and the 1813 house that still ex­ists was owned by a [mem­ber] of the 37th Vir­ginia In­fantry.”

The Muster Grounds usu­ally fo­cus on the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War pe­riod, and so “we try to bring some Civil War his­tory” each year, Mr. Wolfs­berger said.

That Sat­ur­day marked the start of the two-day week­end event, which is now part of the Vir­ginia High­lands Fes­ti­val.

This week­end fea­tures dou­ble the amount of reen­ac­tors as last year, with ap­prox­i­mately 50 to 60 reen­ac­tors on both sides of the war, said Mr. Wolfs­berger.

The re-en­acted bat­tles are based on Union Gen. Ge­orge Stone­man’s 1864 raid through South­west Vir­ginia, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Wolfs­berger. Union sol­diers came to a stop on the Muster Grounds in Abingdon for one night be­fore head­ing to Saltville, Vir­ginia, but upon ar­riv­ing, they dis­cov­ered a feast laid out for a wed­ding that was go­ing to take place the fol­low­ing day.

Mr. Wolfs­berger said the sol­diers ate and drank it all, leav­ing the cakes smashed and a wed­ding ring stolen, be­fore head­ing on their way.

Bob Dot­son por­trayed a Union cap­tain from the 79th New York Com­pany dur­ing the week­end’s bat­tles. Mr. Dot­son has lived out his love for his­tory as a reen­ac­tor for the past 37 years.

“When I was young, I en­joyed run­ning around shoot­ing my gun, but now I like sit­ting around with my friends talk­ing his­tory,” he said. “It’s the ca­ma­raderie.”

He has been able to pass down his pas­sion to his fam­ily as well. Two of Mr. Dot­son’s sons, as well as one of his neph­ews, were at the bat­tle with him. His 8-year-old grand­son also joined the ranks, cre­at­ing three gen­er­a­tions of reen­ac­tors.

“I’ve al­ways liked his­tory. My mom had al­ways had an in­ter­est in his­tory, and she passed that on to me,” said Mr. Dot­son.

Those at­tend­ing the event were able to in­ter­act with the reen­ac­tors, wit­ness can­non and mus­ket fire dur­ing the bat­tle, see money from the era and learn about the jobs of sur­geons, black­smiths and work­ing women at the var­i­ous tents on the grounds.

Claire War­ren, who has been a reen­ac­tor for 20 years, wore a work dress, apron, corset, bon­net and corded pet­ti­coat to rep­re­sent a work­ing-class woman from the Civil War Era.

At her ta­ble, Ms. War­ren had dif­fer­ent kitchen gad­gets with her, in­clud­ing a cherry pit­ter, an ap­ple peeler and a cof­fee grinder — all from the time pe­riod. Chil­dren were sur­round­ing her ta­ble try­ing out all the an­tique tools.

“I’ve al­ways had a fas­ci­na­tion with his­tory. From the time I was a lit­tle kid, I was spend­ing my al­lowance on an­tiques,” she said.

And shar­ing that his­tory is what the Muster Grounds event is all about.

Spec­ta­tors Raleigh Bock­horst and Astrid Bock­horst — 7-year-old twins — are fas­ci­nated with wars.

“I’ve al­ways like wars,” Astrid said. “It’s cool, and there’s a bunch of shoot­ing.”

Her brother, Raleigh, came pre­pared with his own red mus­ket he got from Dis­ney World to watch the bat­tle with some of his friends.

“The war is start­ing,” he yelled when the first shot from the can­non boomed into the air.


The Civil War may have ended over 150 years ago, but for the past six years, some of its bat­tles of it have been reen­acted as part of the Abingdon Civil War Week­end, which takes place on the nine acres of the scenic Muster Grounds in Abingdon, Vir­ginia.

The Muster Grounds was a “gallery place for Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers go­ing off to war.” A nearby house built in 1813 was even owned by a mem­ber of the 37th Vir­ginia In­fantry.

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