Civil War re-enactment proves peaceful in St. Marys
ST. MARYS –People who came out to the ninth annual Blue and Gray Days in St. Marys over the weekend got to see re-enactors with a love of history recreate the Civil War period from camps to dress to battle re-enactments and more.
With debate going on regarding whether to take down Confederate monuments and violent protests in some parts of the country, organizers had some concerns going into this weekend but everything went smoothly, said organizer John Haddox of St. Marys.
Rains on Saturday, more than anything else, kept people away, but many of the 60 re-enactors who attended the weekend event pressed on. A battle re-enactment in downtown St. Marys went on with many re-enactors taking positions under some awnings and managed to stay dry.
“The re-enactors did the battle in the rain (Saturday),” Haddox said.
The re-enactors represented the Union, the Confederacy, civilians and settlers with many setting up period style campsites.
Friday was School Day where area students, from first through fifth grades, came in to see the camps and do history related activities. They had just over 700 students from Pleasants, Ritchie and Tyler counties.
“That is why we do it, for the kids,” Haddox said.
As protests against Confederate symbols and monuments continue across the country which have resulted in violence and death on Aug. 11 in Charlottesville, Va., a number of re-enactment events across the country had been canceled.
However, Haddox said they did not have any direct problems with protesters.
“We don’t have any (Confederate) statues in St. Marys and that seems to be what they are after,” he said. “A lot of re-enactors did not show up this weekend for two reasons, the protesting going on across the country and the rain.”
Jim Miracle, one of the leaders and organizers with Carlin’s Battery D in Wood County, said the entire weekend was great. They had around 18 re-enactors participate over the weekend.
“We had no problems,” he said. “It has been great and the camaraderie has been great just like it always is.
“We are doing our thing to show people what it was like during the Civil War. We do our best to show the public how they lived and fought and we were proud to do it.”
Carlin’s Battery D is heading to Zoar, Ohio, next weekend for The Historic Zoar Civil War Re-enactment. Officials there are already taking precautions to increase security to protect the re-enactors, Miracle said.
“They are not canceling, like a few places have been,” he said. “We are going to be doing this as long as we are able.”
During activities on Sunday, the West Virginia-Ohio Quilters With A Purpose presented Quilts of Valor to area veterans. The quilts are put together locally and given to local veterans so they know someone remembered their service.
The national grassroots organization of the Quilts of Valor have given out over 167,000 quilts nationwide.
“Everything is done by volunteers,” said Verna Owens of the West Virginia-Ohio Quilters With A Purpose. “The people who do the quilts get nothing.
“It is totally for the love of the soldiers and the veterans that we do this.”
Those receiving quilts on Sunday included: Paul Taylor, of St, Marys, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1963-1969; Jason Fitzpatrick who served in the U.S. Navy from 1955-1959; Jason Reed, of St. Marys, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1993-1997 and has served as a St. Marys police officer from 2001 to the present; Gordon George Weimer who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1961-1965; and Charles Hall who served in the U.S. Army and the Army National Guard from 1971-1996.
Alan Farley, of Concord, Va., attended the event as a period chaplain. He, along with his wife Faith, have a ministry, Re-enactors Missions For Jesus Christ, that serves re-enactors and the couple travels extensively.
They had a display that showed how chaplains administered the Word of God to troops on both sides of the Civil War. They led Sunday services for all those in attendance over the weekend in St. Marys.
“We are here to educate and hold a church service,” Farley said. “The rain put a damper on things, but still we talked to a lot of nice people and spirits seemed to be high.”
Al Stone, formerly of Hinton, W.Va., and now of Zephyrhills, Fla., portrayed General Robert E. Lee throughout the weekend. He has been portraying the general for over 23 years.
Although it rained Friday and Saturday, he said the participants remained enthusiastic.
“They were ready to go all the time,” Stone said. “The people who came really seemed to enjoy themselves.”
Lee is a key figure in “the history of these United States,” Stone said. Lee’s story is about the United States, the Civil War and how the country came back together after the war.
“It is a great story,” Stone said. “I love traveling around the country to tell it.”
With some cities choosing to take down Confederate monuments, including some honoring Lee, and protests that have accompanied those acts Stone has been impacted as well.
“I had four events lined up from last weekend through mid-September and three of them have canceled,” he said. “It is all because of the mobs roaming the streets nowadays … trying to eliminate history.
“Their real goal is the downfall of the United States government, whether they are extreme leftists or the extreme right.”
Stone believes they are all terrorists who have put all of American society on the edge over what they might do where people are constantly aware they might cause a riot. He believes people like that should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for their violent acts.
“These people don’t know anything about our real history,” Stone said.
Stone said what slaves Lee had came from the estate of his father-in-law and he had worked to emancipate the slaves within five years of the death of his father-in-law. The slaves in that estate were all emancipated by 1862. Lee also helped rebuild Washington and Lee University in Virginia after the war.
“He did everything he could to bring the Union back together again and was praised for it by thousands of people, and praised for it by educated people in the North and the South,” Stone said. “Now these uneducated people criticize him.
“If people would take the time to read the history in depth, read what was happening at the time. People would understand what was going on at the time.”
Jerome Burr, of Rockport, brought his three sons out to the Blue and Gray Days to spend time together and with their grandfather.
“We do this with him every year,” Burr said. “‘We hope to continue it.
“I think it is important for our kids to know our history and having time with family. That is the most important thing.”
Haddox hopes those who came out to the Blue and Gray Days got a sense of history.
“That is what we are all about,” he said. “We are about history and heritage, not hate.
“We have Confederates, Yankees and we all get along.”
Once done, many will shake hands and tell others that they will see them at the next event, Haddox said.
After Sunday’s battle re-enactment had concluded, participants stood together and did a shooting salute to those who fought in the Civil War and in honor of the United States of America.
“There is no hate here,” Haddox said. “The hate is in the hearts of those who don’t understand history.”