Did you know there were only two major battles fought in the North during the Civil War?
That is the question my 12 year-old-asked me while we were driving to Endview Plantation in Newport News, Virginia last weekend.
My answer: No, I didn’t. At least I don’t think I did.
His response: Yep, the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Gettysburg.
Yay for the Virginia Public School System!
I do have very vivid memories of driving through battlefields as a child listening to George Winston instrumental soundtracks playing in the cassette player of my mother’s car. Considering there were only two major battles fought in the north, I find it odd that in my 15 plus years of living in the deep south I have never attended a Civil War reenactment…until last weekend.
This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia. Over 70,000 lives were lost during those 9 months of battle south of Richmond, Virginia. There will be several activities this summer at the National Battlefield Petersburg that honor that battle and those who lost their lives, but we got started a little early in Hampton Roads.
I am so sorry it took me that long to go. Have you ever seen Sweet Home Alabama? The movie about the southern transplant returning home to divorce her first husband? Her father is an AVID re-enactor and they show a scene where he is in character, dying on the battlefield. THIS WAS JUST LIKE THAT!
My family and I took advantage of the Civil War Reenactment at Endview Plantation in Newport News (cost was $7 per person over 7 years old) this past weekend and we had a terrific time! There were Boy Scouts selling food and reenactment vendors selling their mostly handmade goods. I couldn’t resist buying a bag full of pewter and bone buttons for my knitting habit!
We slowly meandered through some of the soldier encampments where we found out what life could be like for men on the road during the war. It was great for the kids to check out the different types of tents and living situations. The authenticity was amazing from the cooking, to the clothing, to the way the horses were outfitted.
We only had time to wander into one of the several encampments that filled the tree line before we decided to head down and grab a seat before the show. And what a show it was!
The actors hooted and hollered. The cannons LOUDLY rang. The gun shots were almost nonstop. The reenactment itself lasted about 30 minutes. The men and women did a terrific job depicting a battle of the Siege of Petersburg. The Union troops advanced slowly across the field and continually pushed the confederates back, trash talking and goading each other all the while. Men fell dead right and left and several crawled away injured, fighting their way to safety. I was presented with several opportunities to answer important questions my children had.
While we sat on our blanket and ate lunch (much like crowds would do on the sidelines during the war) the kids learned why the men were marching and basically standing in line to die. My daughter wanted to know why it was taking them so long to fire their weapons between shots. I even learned how to tell when the cannons were about to blow (“the cannon handlers cover their ears, hon,” my husband pointed out).
I may possibly have had the best time in our group. It was such a unique experience and I was so thrilled I pulled the family along to check it out with me. We were there a total of about three hours, and we could have easily spent more time exploring.
I don’t know if Endview Plantation has reenactments on a regular basis, but the Plantation is a permanent historical site where you can tour the house and grounds. You can check them out on their Facebook page or visit their website for information about their tours and summer camps for children.
And if you have the opportunity to attend a reenactment, jump on it! You won’t be sorry! You can find a list of battlefields in your area here on the National Park Service page. Just click on search “by topic” and select Battlefield/Military park.