CIVIL WAR REVISITED
Virginia Highlands Fest offers recreation of local battles
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.