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Re-enactors converge on Charles Town

June 03, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The muskets crackled and the cannon boomed through the valley near here Saturday afternoon as more than 700 Civil War re-enactors participated in the fifth annual Thunder in the Valley.

The re-enactments, which end this afternoon, are being played out on farmland and woods near town. Before this year the event was held downtown and at the nearby racetrack, but "the armies got to big for town," said Bob Pratt, a confederate general this weekend and president of the Charles Town Heritage Association. The association sponsors Thunder in the Valley.

"It was fantastic. We had a real good battle," said Pratt, who was on the winning side of the Saturday skirmishes.

Thunder in the Valley is unlike many Civil War re-enactments in the area in that the troop movements and winners and losers of the day are not scripted. The re-enactors call it a "tactical."

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"Everybody else does scripted battles, so why us too? This is more fun," Pratt said.

The Charles Town event also differs from many re-enactments in that it is not the re-creation of a single battle but a re-enactment of the type of skirmishes that happened frequently in Jefferson County during the Civil War.

"This area had five Aprils of constant battles. Nothing major, but almost daily skirmishes," Pratt said.

Frank Gift, vice president of the Charles Town Heritage Association and an event organizer, said the Charles Town area saw many Civil War skirmishes because of its proximity to Harpers Ferry, a strategic Civil War location, and the lush farmland in the Shenandoah Valley.

Gift, who also runs the Broken Spoke Saloon, a countertop and tent set-up at the main campsite, said the re-enactment was important because, "We're honoring the people that came before us."

Darlene Albin of Harpers Ferry, a spectator whose grandson was participating in the re-enactment, said: "I like the history. And it keeps history alive so generations to come will understand about it."

Gilbert Carpenter, 47, of Clarksburg, W.Va., also said showing younger generations what life was like and what happened during the Civil War is important.

Carpenter, who worked a front-line confederate cannon Saturday, said it is also fun "just to relive the Civil War like our ancestors did."

Lori Amodeo, 32, of Woodbridge, Va., came to re-enactment with her boyfriend, a Confederate re-enactor. Amodeo, who was cooking a pot roast over an open fire near her tent, said, "I like the camaraderie, and being outdoors and learning a little bit about how we used to live."

Pratt, the victorious general Saturday and a developer during the week, said: "I like everything (about re-enactments). The teaching, the research, the battles, camp life. ... I just hate going back to the modern day."

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