GILBERT - Last weekend, the Town of Gilbert was flung back through time to the 1860s and became a war zone for three days.
The “Skirmish on the River,” a Civil War re-enactment, took place Friday, April 27 through Sunday, April 29, and was called a success.
“It was fantastic, I learned a lot that I didn’t know,” Gilbert Mayor Vivian Livingood told the Daily News. The example she gave was that she always thought the war was fought because of slavery, when it was a combination of a variety of reasons that led to the Civil War.
The mayor said that a healthy estimate of people who attended would be around 1,000, but however, it would be impossible to tell.
“So many came over the three days, it was amazing, but I have no idea how many people were actually there.”
Al Stone, a famous re-enactor who portrayed Gen. Robert E. Lee during the event and has appeared on the History Channel, told her that the attendance was “phenomenal, especially for Gilbert’s first year,” the mayor said.
“They were lined up and down the road all weekend,” Livingood said of the crowds at the event held at the Larry Joe Harless Community Center bottom.
On Friday, the “Skirmish” had a number of learning stations available for people to visit and learn about the time period.
“There were soldiers telling stories, telling people how they would cook and eat, how much they could carry around with them and more,” Livingood said. “The women were wearing costumes from the era. It was amazing.”
That day, Livingood said that a busload of students from Omar stopped by and told her that, as they were headed to R.D. Bailey Lake for a field trip, they saw the banner that was flying on the main bridge into town that was advertising the event.
“They stopped by and said they loved it,” Livingood said. “History teachers told me that this was the best history lesson they could have asked for.”
Livingood said that the children all paid attention to the story that the 78 actors in attendance were telling.
“They really got into the stories,” Livingood said. “Some of the actors encouraged the children to research their own ancestry to see if they had relatives who fought in the war. The teachers said they’d give bonus point to the kids who brought in proof they did.”
For the entire weekend, all the actors camped out and were well-fed. Livingood said that on Friday and Saturday night, the town and LJHCC had cooked them dinner and on Sunday morning, breakfast.
“All the actors said they wanted to come back,” Livingood said. “They said they were treated very well.”
The Mingo County Commission were in attendance for one day of the event, as well as Delegate Harry Keith White.
Livingood said that they told her they enjoyed the event and hoped that it would become an annual one. They promised to help support future “Skirmishes.”
On Saturday and Sunday, the battles took place and had a few well-known people participating, like Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks, County Attorney Glen Rutledge and Gilbert Councilman Randy Livingood.
Livingood said that when Rutledge and the man who had the idea for the “Skirmish” in the first place, Reuben Mitchell, “died,” it was a very serious moment to see.
“Rutledge was laying down on the field and asked Gen. Lee to pray for him and he said that he would,” Livingood said. “A woman in a period-dress ran out with a bucket of water to care for him. He asked if Reuben had died and Gen. Lee said that he had.”
Livingood said that Rutledge reached out for Mitchell’s hand and held it as his final breath left his body.
The South won the battle.
The entire weekend was recorded by a professional videographer, Livingood said, paid for via an earlier donation from White. The video, once finished, can be found on TheTownOfGilbert.com.