COLUMN: A Confederate Yankee

Close to home

Middletown, Virginia is noted, among other things, for it’s proximity to Cedar Creek battlefield, where a major Union defeat of Confederate forces took place during October of 1864.

For a number of years, aficionados have conducted a commemorative re-enactment of that battle on the grounds of the original battle. Carol and I have gone with fellow re-enactors, and it was impressive. It attracts re-enactors from across the country and even overseas.

A surprising number of Europeans enjoy coming here to reenact our Civil War.

The pair of us were unable to attend this year but were kept informed by others of our group who did go. On Saturday, a lively battle reenactment took place, the participants numbering in the hundreds, with hundreds of spectators enjoying the show. Those re-enactors representing the Confederate troops were encamped several hundred yards from the Union folks, and alongside the Confederates was a separate encampment of sutlers, merchants who sell us the gear and materials we need to be able to conduct our events.

A little past noon, as both Union and Confederate re-enactors were preparing their lunch, a sutler discovered a large pipe bomb inside her tent along the back wall. A call to local law enforcement was immediately answered. Local police contacted the state police, who in turn notified the FBI.

Their response was to evacuate the Confederate camp and begin a careful inspection – the participants were bussed to a nearby elementary school gymnasium, leaving all their gear behind. While law enforcement began to inspect every tent and its contents, a specially-built container was trucked in. The pipe bomb was loaded inside and was blown up using explosives provided by state police. It is unknown whether the device was actually capable of detonating on its own, but the authorities decided not to waste time on a closer inspection. It was suggested by law enforcement that, judging by the size of the thing and it’s proximity to the Confederate camp, substantial numbers of people could have been seriously hurt, or worse.

Though the Union camp was a good distance away, authorities decided they should also be evacuated and the camp thoroughly inspected. The commander of the Union troops and several of his staff are veterans, and capable of conducting a very thorough inspection. After some negotiations, they were allowed to inspect their own camp and upon completion, presented to authorities a very detailed written report. The decision to evacuate the Union troops was dropped, and the Confederate re-enactors permitted to return to camp.

It is unknown who did it or why, but given the recent national uproar over the Confederate battle flag and statues of Confederates being removed or destroyed, one can imagine that unthinking hotheads were responsible. It was discovered that a threatening letter had been received a week prior by the management of the battlefield park, with the apparent intent of causing the cancellation of the reenactment; however, on Sunday, a very lively battle re-enactment was conducted, at the conclusion of which all re-enactors linked arms, shouting USA! USA! USA! Patriotic songs were sung, including America the Beautiful and the National Anthem.

Commanders of both encampments publicly deplored the ignorant and savage behavior and firmly announced that such threats would not and will not deter us from commemorating and honoring the original participants in the Battle of Cedar Creek or any other such events. Details of the event and our response have appeared in the monthly publications regarding re-enacting, so all of us know – and we’re informing the public that we WILL continue, and we WILL ensure the safety of any and all spectators. We are teachers. Far too few Americans realize the importance, the impact on our nation that the Civil War had, and is still having on all of us today. That is what we teach as we reenact those events, as do those who reenact other wars on American soil – upon these Hallowed Grounds – such as the French and Indian War, the Rev War, War of 1812 and others. We will not be frightened off by misguided knotheads. Stay tuned, y’all!

Confederate Yankee William D. (Bill) Mayers RT, RN, of Sullivan is a retired senior U.S. Army Corpsman. A certified healthcare professional since 1964, he holds two professional licenses, including that of Registered Professional Nurse licensed in New York, Alaska, Virginia and Louisiana. He has four children, two stepchildren, three grandchildren, a new great-grandchild and is an avid analyst of current events.

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