October 12, 2004

Gratuitous Long Weekend Roadtrip Blogging


Have a look at Droop Mountain Battlefield. This is where my family and my brother's family had lunch on Sunday.

I'd never heard of this place before and, unless you are an absolute Civil War fanatic or a local, neither have you. It's about 30 miles north of Lewisburg, West Virginia which, in turn, is about an hour north of Roanoke, Virginia.

Droop Mountain was the site of the last major battle in West Virginia. The main strategic goal of the Union in the area was to cut the Confederate rail lines between Virginia and Tennessee. On November 6, 1863, a Union army under Gen. Averell attacked the Confederates under General Echolls. Despite the fact that the Rebels held the high ground, the Yankees defeated them and drove them out of the state. Owing to manpower needs in the Shenedoah Valley, the Rebs never came back.

My brother had explained all this as we packed our picnic. We figured that we would pretty much have the place to ourselves. But when we got there and drove up to the observation tower, we found ourselves right in the middle of a Confederate encampment! (As I see now from the website, a reenactment of the battle had been scheduled for this weekend.) Just as we pulled up, the Rebs were marching down the hill in column. There were about a hundred of them, altogether. Pretty cool. I had rather an interesting time explaining to my girls that they were neither hunters nor policemen, but soldiers - and only pretend soldiers at that.

Anyway, after we messed about in the tower for a while, we moved over to the picnic area and set up shop. Just as we were getting the fire going for the hot dogs, a battery of cannon opened up somewhere down below us in the trees. They were close enough that you could feel the percussion in your chest. A little bit later, a second battery (presumably the Yankees) opened up from farther off. The two sides kept at it for quite a long time. As we ate, we started hearing musket fire as well and the distant sound of shouting. Never had lunch during a firefight before. Very cool.

All in all, the battle lasted for about an hour or so. I half expected that, in keeping with authenticity, what was left of the Reb column would come running back up the hill in confusion, with the Yanks nipping at their heals. Alas, no such luck. The battle over, the reenacters sauntered back to their digs in very leasurely fashion, dropped their costume and broke camp. A rather large number of them had on History Channel t-shirts under their uniforms, a by-product, no doubt, of employment in the HC's recent binge of reenactment films. (Call it the "Gettysburg Effect," I suppose.)

(Speaking of antiquities, there was a playground by the picnic area that had the kind of equipment I haven't seen in thirty years - big wooden seesaws, tall swing sets with plastic seats and a two story tall metal slide that was only about two feet across and had no railing. Of course the kids were all over it - nearly gave me heart failure.)

Posted by Robert at October 12, 2004 08:47 AM | TrackBack
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