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Groups combine events to celebrate Martinsburg's heritage

May 14, 2006|by RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Correspondent

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Spring Mills Middle School eighth-graders have been painting more than 100 toy plastic soldiers to use in a diorama depicting the Civil War's Battle of Falling Waters, which took place on the grounds of their school 145 years ago.

The clash between Union and Confederate troops on July 2, 1861, led by Gen. Stonewall Jackson, wasn't bloody as Civil War battles go - only two Confederates and three Union troops were killed - but it was the first meeting of the two sides in the Shenandoah Valley in the opening months of the war.

The incident was the subject of a talk Saturday at the Belle Boyd House in Martinsburg by Gary Gimbel, a local history buff who wrote an article about the skirmish for Blue and Gray Magazine last year.

Gimbel's lecture was among the schedule of events Saturday at the Martinsburg Heritage Day celebration sponsored by the Berkeley County Historical Society and the General Adam Stephen Memorial Association.

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Historical Society President Don Wood said until this year, the society and association held separate events commemorating their respective local histories.

"This year, we combined them to draw a larger crowd," Wood said.

The society held its programs at the Belle Boyd House at 126 E. Race St., and the Adam Stephen House at 309 E. John St.

The Belle Boyd House is named for the young female Confederate spy who lived there. The Adam Stephen House gives posterity to the local Revolutionary War hero.

There was live music and children's games at both locations.

Patrons were transported between both locations free by trolley. The trolley also passed through all of Martinsburg's historic districts. Wood, who celebrated his 73rd birthday Saturday, was dressed in mid-19th century merchant's garb as Ben Boyd, Belle Boyd's father. He narrated the trolley tour.

"We've had an excellent turnout today," Wood said.

Jimmy Pence portrayed Jackson, who recalled the celebrated Rebel general's life. Tricia Strader, wearing period dress, was Belle Boyd.

Confederate and Union re-enactors set up living history camps outside the Belle Boyd House, while Revolutionary War and French and Indian War re-enactors had displays outside the Adam Stephen House.

Larry Caskey, 56, of Martinsburg, an eighth-grade history teacher at Spring Mills Middle School, which opened in the fall of 2004, said his hobby is painting plastic toy soldiers. He came up with the idea for his students to paint Union and Confederate soldiers. He praised the students for their artistic talent.

"They did a very good job," he said. "If there was a time machine the students could look out their classroom windows and see the actual battle taking place on the school grounds."

Caskey and the students are making a 7-foot-by-15-foot diorama showing the Battle of Falling Waters using their painted toy soldiers to illustrate the scene. It will be on display during an open house at the school May 25 and 26, he said.

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