Event commemorates local history

By Katie Demeria

WINCHESTER — People were so interested in what Jeff Baldwin had to say about the artillery used during the Third Battle of Winchester that, even after he finished his lengthy talk, the questions kept coming.

The same was true at the end of the cavalry demonstration — the horses stood, stamping their hooves, while their riders responded to those lining the fence, watching them.

Calvary reenactor Todd Kern remarked on how involved the crowd was Saturday at the battlefield during the events commemorating the battle’s 150th anniversary.

“There have been a lot of interested people, asking a lot of questions, which is always nice,” he said.

Visitors had several programs to choose from, all of which ran from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. They included “Walk in their footsteps” programs, which involved retracing Confederate and Union units’ paths across the middle field, joining Shenandoah Valley Civil War Era Dancers in period dances, and camp life programs.

Rob Aitcheson, communications and merchandising coordinator with the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, said at least 500 visitors were expected to stop by the battlefield Saturday. As of around 1 p.m., at least 250 had already visited.

Rich Thiel of Rappahannock County brought his 3-year-old grandson Branson Conway to enjoy the day and learn about the history.

Branson, Thiel said, enjoyed the canons. When asked about them, Branson said they were “loud.”

Thiel was also called in to dance with the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Era Dancers. He took part in a dance called “The Seven Wonders,” according to Dance Master Tom Mack.

Member Dan Detamore-Hunsberger said he considers it very important that participants take part in the Civil War events.

“If we don’t study it and learn it then we’re going to lose it,” he said.

It was fitting that events took place all day — Kern said the battle itself went from dawn to dusk.

A Winchester native himself, Kern said many do not know just how much history is in the area.

“It’s here in our backyard,” he said. “What a lot of people don’t even realize is that a lot of the soil around here was stained with brave men’s blood.”

He added that when the Union forces attacked Winchester they brought with them around 6,000 horses in their cavalry.

“You would have seen this juggernaut mass of federal horses coming down the pike to slam into [Jubal] Early’s left flank,” he said.

“A lot of the men fighting against the Federal attack that took place this day were from this area, they were literally defending their home,” Kern added.

Another reenactor, Casey Mott, added that at least four individuals had come up to them to ask if they knew whether a particular cavalry unit in which their ancestor fought was part of the battle. He said it “gives them something to relate to.”

“It’s very meaningful for us to be here about 150 years later on the actual ground where it happened and to be able to educate the public about it at the same time,” Kern said.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com