Civil War weekend fires away during Virginia Highlands Fest
Aug. 05, 2017
ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — 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 of the 37th Virginia Infantry."
The Muster Grounds usual focus is on the Revolutionary War period, and so "we try to bring some Civil War history," each year, 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 re-enactors as last year, with approximately 50 to 60 re-enactors on both sides of the war, said Wolfsberger.
The re-enacted battles are based on Union Gen. George Stoneman's 1864 raid through Southwest Virginia, according to 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. 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 will be playing a Union captain from the 79th New York Company during the weekend's battles. Dotson has lived out his love for history as a re-enactor 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 Dotson's sons, as well as one of his nephews, were at the battle with him on Saturday. His 8-year-old grandson will be joining the ranks, creating three generations of re-enactors.
"I've always liked history. My mom had always had an interest in history, and she passed that on to me," said Dotson.
Those attending the event will be able to interact with the re-enactors, 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 re-enactor 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, 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 has 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 — seven-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.
Information from: Bristol Herald Courier, http://www.bristolnews.com