Civil War Days continues honoring deeply rooted legacies
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — It’s been 157 years since an estimated 700 Confederate cavalrymen raided the small town of Guyandotte, only to withdraw before Union reinforcements torched much of the secessionist-leaning village the next day.
In the grand scheme of the Civil War, it was just one of thousands of inconsequential engagements that nonetheless carved its legacy into the fabric of American life. Unlike other wars Americans have bled in, campaigns were not waged in foreign, exotic lands, but in places and towns we now call home.
It’s that energy that propels an interest in the Civil War nationwide and what’s fueled Guyandotte Civil War Days for now 29 years.
For two days each November, re-enactors in blue, gray and period-appropriate civilian clothes set up camp on the same ground once bled over and wage a friendlier battle in the streets as hundreds watch from the safety of the sidewalk.
“Whether it was gray or blue, they fought for what they believed in - whether it was to preserve the Union or, in their minds, to save their homes and property,” said Tim Delay, wearing the blue with gold trim of a Union infantry officer before his contingent filed into their lines.
Most re-enactors, as do many Americans, claimed cherished ancestors on one or both sides of the war - fighting for their beliefs during the most tumultuous time in American history.
There’s a deeply rooted appeal in re-enacting, in dressing up and playing the role of a forefather, that draws participants from across the United States to Guyandotte.
Vonda and Cassie Dixon, dressed in bonnets and line dresses, made the trip from Tennessee to watch as Confederate sympathizers.
But even though fortunes would eventually turn south for the South, the Dixons added that the past cannot be forgotten that easily.
“We’re products of it,” Cassie said.
“Right - we’re products of it,” her mother added. “Our ancestors were in it, and everything that has come before us makes us what we are. To cross out everything that happened ... is just insane.”
Aside from honoring their legacies, keeping Civil War history alive serves as a cautionary tale, particularly in today’s divisive political climate.
“If we forget what happened in the war that we went through - America’s ‘Iliad,’ our ‘Odyssey,’ so to speak - we won’t remember that this wasn’t a very good thing,” said Chris Johnson, a Union infantryman speaking over the first volleys of musket fire.
“If 263,000 men were killed with single-shot muskets over a four-year period, what would happen today with all our semi-automatics?” added Roger Caldwell, a fellow Union man, as the party filed in.
Special events Sunday, Nov. 4, include the 10 a.m. memorial service, Madie Carroll House tours from noon to 4 p.m., and re-enactments and scenarios from 1 to 4 p.m.
For more information and a complete schedule, visit http://thunderinthevillage.com/.
Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com