July 8, 2014 - No Comments
by Jim Barnes
This year’s reenactment at New Market, Virginia, marked the 150th anniversary of the battle fought in a thunderstorm and made famous thanks to the Virginia Military Institute. But it was also a milestone for member of the 1st West Virginia who participated in the 125th anniversary reenactment. So there was some sentimental value to the 2014 reenactment for Mark Tennant and possibly Jim Barnes – I failed to ask him. To me, I was there in 1989, but with the 28th Massachusetts in those days.
I won’t attempt to review the whole proceeding, just some highlights that will stick with me, starting with the setting. There is no battlefield quite like New Market. It is beautiful. The wide, well-kept valley with old man Massanutten looking down on us from the East and the Bushong Farm provide a wonderful location. The weather was grand indeed – sunny, seventies and just a hint of a breeze. The nights were a wee bit on the nippy side. The only thing that detracted from this setting as it always does, is I-81 and the constant hum of tires on the concrete. Although, I must admit for the first time, I failed to hear a truck horn play Dixie. Relaxing in camp, the ridge just above the North Fork of the Shenandoah gives you a view of the battlefield and the valley towards the east.
No Cars in Camp
Despite all the warnings, we seemed to have a lot of vehicles parked around the fringes of the camp. You can see from the picture below the reenactor parking lot in the distance. The Confederate camps were just across the road from us, but they seemed intent in parking on the edge of our camp.
Honoring the Dead, Even If Were Not Sure Who They Are
As is our custom, the 1st West Virginia Infantry, we concluded Saturday afternoon by proceeding to a part of the battlefield where we believe the First may have fought. The unit we try to honor by portraying them in reenactments suffered about 20% casualties at New Market. It is only fitting that we take time to conduct a little memorial ceremony for those who lost their life here. This year we gathered around the battlefield marker, upon which is a description of the heroics that earned Sergeant James M. Burns of Company B, the Medal of Honor. Mark Tennant and Kevin Skaggs, probably two of the most knowledgeable people on the face of the earth about the First, had differing lists of who was killed or died of wounds at New Market. Both plan to research the issue and get back to me.
The Thieving Yankees
Jeff Shaara was there on Saturday, selling his newest book on Vicksburg. I had the opportunity to talk with him after I picked up one of his books. I was excited to learn that he has added a 4th book to his series on the Western theatre of the Civil War and even more excited to learn that he is writing about one of the war’s most intriguing soldiers, George H. Thomas. So excited in fact, that I left without paying for the book at the next tent. Upon returning to camp I suddenly realized that I had not paid for the book and beat a hasty retreat to sutler’s row to cough up the required funds. Nobody was the wiser except a few of my pards.
The One and Only
According to Kevin Skaggs, the First has only one marker on a battlefield – and it’s at New Market. I resolved to finally find it and it was there as promised. It is located in a field adjacent to the “other” New Market Museum. It is at this point that First formed a line on the night before the battle along with 2 other regiments, and skirmished with the Confederate advance. This marker is on Manor Hill and it indicates the right flank of the regiment, which leads us to the question where is the left flank marker. Unfortunately, good old I-81 comes into play once again. After all our location at the climax of the battle back on the Bushong Farm is now under I-81, why shouldn’t the highway interfere with this location also. I would guess that our left flank was somewhere over the highway.
- This was a laid back affair with 2 battles and not much else that was mandatory. No drill, no dress parade, no parade downtown, not much of anything else.
- Thanks to Mark Tennant, Dave Eubank, Ross Wetherell, Ralph McCready, Ed Chapeldaine, Kevin Skaggs, KC Waterson, Greg Waterson and Jim Barnes for attending.
- Regimental Commander, Colonel Dave Childs fell in with the First on Saturday as a private. Lt. Col. Skaggs commanded our little battalion.
- Mark and I stopped at Greenland Gap battle site on the way back. Beautiful area. More on that in a later communication.