The town of Gilbert has collaborated with the Larry Joe Harless Community Center, Gilbert Development Company, the 22nd Virginia Infantry and Hale’s Battery of Artillery (re-enactment groups) to provide the first annual Civil War re-enactment “Skirmish on the River,” scheduled for Friday, April 27.
According to a release from the LJHCC, about 50 re-enactors will set up their camp and teaching stations to show people what the grounds were like during the Civil War.
The stations will include a cooking tent, where people will learn how soldiers prepared their meals over open fires. The Artillery Run station will feature both an Authentic Civil War Musket and Pistol. The pistol is a STAR Revolver that was built in New York circa 1860 and purchased by the Union Army. A Field Packing Tent will also be demonstrated so that everyone can see how the soldiers packed all their necessities for travel during these turbulent times.
Lastly, a portrayal of General Lee, played by Al Stone, will regale stories of the Civil War.
Stone was born in rural upstate New York, a few miles north of the Pennsylvania state line. He had two great-great-grandfathers who served as volunteers in the war between the states and was raised by a father who was an avid American history buff, seldom passing up the opportunity to visit historic sites.
By the time he was 15, Al had trekked the rocks and fields of Gettysburg on numerous occasions while on trips to Maryland and Washington, D.C.
In 1965, Al, then 21, accepted a job that necessitated a relocation to Lynchburg, Va., where he continued to explore his developing interests in the conflict that so divided the then-young nation.
While his employment allowed him to visit and spend many hours at meaningful sites, probably the most profound event on Al’s life in Lynchburg was his meeting with a woman who was 112-years-old at the time.
As a young woman, Mrs. Royal and her family were slaves on a nearby plantation, and her vivid accounts of life during the mid-1800s mesmerized many a listener. It was during his residence in the Old Dominion State that Al became aware of the impact Robert E. Lee had, not only on Virginia, but on the Union, both before and after the war.
Re-enactors include those from Hale’s Battery of Artillery and 22nd Virginia Infantry. These groups have more than 20 years of experience in re-enacting and perform several annual events throughout the state.
“I am pleased that we are bringing a piece of history to Gilbert,” said Reuben Mitchell, who suggested the Civil War re-enactment to the Gilbert Town Council last year. “Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the casualties of Civil War have been revised. By combing through newly digitized census data from the 19th century, J. David Hacker, a demographic historian from Binghamton University in New York, has recalculated the death toll and increased it by more than 20 percent — to 750,000— by far the greatest toll of any war in American history.”
Gilbert Mayor Vivian Livingood said she was excited to bring the event to the area.
“It is important for each of us to not only remember our heritage but to honor those that have fought to make our state and nation what it is today. I hope that everyone will attend this event and learn about the history of this time period in Mingo County.”
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Gilbert Town Council, the mayor said her husband, Councilman Randy Livingood, and attorney Glen Rutledge, both present at the meeting, looked nice with the beards they had grown out. Both men will participate in the re-enactment.
Rutledge said he had reinforcements coming in from North Carolina — a reference to his children.
Councilman Livingood spoke of his attendance at a recent Civil War re-enactment that surprised with the accuracy and dedication of the actors, as well as the audience, which he estimated to have been in the thousands. He said he looked forward to the Gilbert’s re-enactment, a notion the rest of the council shared.
Mayor Livingood said also that Delegate Harry Keith White sent $2,000 and that he hoped the event would become an annual happening. She said that she planned to hire a videographer with the funding to record the event and immortalize it digitally by placing it online.
The battles will take place in the field above the Community Center at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 28, and Sunday, April 29. Bluegrass music will be presented Saturday at 7 p.m. with the firing of the cannon to follow at 9:30.
The event is free to the public due to in part to sponsorship from the West Virginia Department of Tourism and the Mingo County Commission.