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The Town of New Market, Va., returns to the spotlight during the weekend of May 18-19 for the longest continual reenactment in the United States. Hundreds of living historians from around the country will bring the epic event to life on the very ground where the actual battle occurred on May 15, 1864. Once again the valor and bravery of the cadets from Virginia Military Institute will shine in the battle which claimed the lives of 10 cadets and inflicted wounds on 47, some of them only 15 years old.

In the conflict 4,090 Confederates, under the command of Major John C. Breckenridge, defeated 6,275 Union soldiers, led by Major General Franz Sigel. Ninety-six of Sigel’s troops were killed, 520 were wounded, and 225 went missing, compared with 43 soldiers killed, 474 wounded, and three missing in Breckenridge’s camp. Breckenridge reluctantly allowed the cadets to participate in the battle, but he would have never won the fight without them.

Their heroic role in the battle was the subject of the “Field of Lost Shoes” film, an Emmy award winner in 2000. After marching 85 miles from VMI to Staunton, the cadets arrived just in time for the battle. Many lost their shoes on the muddy battlefield that day. Later, the cadets were welcomed by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Virginia Governor William Smith in Richmond. Upon their return to the VMI campus on June 12, 1864, the cadets found their school under attack.

During this year’s event visitors will witness the reenactment, have the opportunity to talk with soldiers about their artillery and what camp was like during the Civil War, and purchase Civil War period memorabilia. Leading up to the Battle of New Market at 2:30 pm on Saturday, featured activities will include living history at the Bushong Farm, artillery demonstrations, a cavalry battle, the Battle of New Market and battlefield tour. Sunday starts with a church service at 10 a.m., followed by living history at the Bushong farm, the Battle of New Market, and a battlefield tour. The grounds close at 5 pm each day. Advance tickets for adults, available until May 3, are $8 per day and $10 and up at the gate. Children age 9 and under are free each day.

Tickets to the reenactment include the Virginia Museum of the Civil War and the Bushong farmstead, which dates to 1818 and served as a hospital following the battle. The museum features original artifacts from the Bushong family, VMI and the Battle of New Market, plus the brand new Kaminsky Gallery of Civil War Firearms, the Robert Raeburn Civil War Art Collection and the “Field of Lost Shoes” film. The Virginia Room at the museum follows the story of the Civil War in Virginia and features exhibits on the Battle of New Market. Activities at the Bushong farmstead include living history presentations, speakers, a period church service, signal corps and artillery demonstrations, and more.

The Battle of New Market was one of approximately 10,000 military battles and engagements that took place during the Civil War (1861-1865). The war was fought in 23 different states and had over 650,000 casualties. Virginia was the site of 47 battles, the most of any state, followed by Tennessee and Georgia (each with 13 battles), Mississippi (11 battles), Missouri (6 battles), and other states (5 or fewer battles). More information about battlefields and reenactments can be found at civilwartraveler.com.

Also in the Mid-Atlantic

Memorial Day will be celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery near the nation’s capital on Monday, May 27. Continuing a tradition that began in 1948, members of the Old Guard will decorate the headstones of 280,000 graves, plus 4,000 niche rows of cremation remains, with small American flags on Thursday, May 23.

The Memorial Day Observance Ceremony includes a prelude by the U.S. Marine Corp Band and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Observance Ceremony is usually attended by the President of the United States. The first Decoration Day (now known as Memorial Day) was created by General John Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (a group of Union soldiers who served in the war) in 1868. He chose May 30 as a day to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers because it was not a date of any significance. President Garfield delivered a speech at the ceremony. Memorial Day became a Federal holiday in 1971.

The cemetery is the final resting place of many American heroes, including President John F. Kennedy and several family members, President William Howard Taft, and George Washington Parke Custis, a relative of the first President. (Arlington House at the cemetery is currently closed for renovations. Preservation work on the amphitheatre continues, as plans are made for the centennial observance of the burial of the Unknown Soldier in 2021, 877-907-8585 or arlingtoncemetery.mil).

Confederate Memorial Day, fist observed on Apr. 26, 1866, continues to be celebrated in some southern states on May 10.

Wilmington and Carolina beaches rebound

Labeled a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Florence had been downgraded to Category 1 by the time it hit Wrightsville Beach near Wilmington, N.C., on the morning of Sept. 14, 2018. As the waters crested, serious flooding cut off the coast and made the city and surrounding beaches a virtual island for a few weeks. Overall damage to the area soared into the billions, affecting residents and businesses and placing the tourism-based economy in jeopardy.

The day after the storm, however, locals rolled up their sleeves and faced monumental challenges over the ensuing months, as government officials set emergency programs in motion and relief organizations and companies from around the country arrived to help. Having a crisis plan in place in advance of the storm also made the clean-up go faster. While some annual holiday events had to be canceled, 50 took place on schedule.

A majority of businesses were up and running by early spring, and a few that were impacted more severely are now opening their doors. Verandas Bed & Breakfast owner Chuck Pennington will welcome guests this month after completing extensive repairs to the roof, floors, walls, lighting, plumbing, and furnishings of his inn, which totaled more than $300,000. One of the first things he did a few days after the storm was to host a fundraiser on site to help others in need, and he plans celebrate his reopening with another fundraiser soon.

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The iconic Blockade Runner at Wrightsville Beach, which dates to the mid-50s, reopened in the spring with a brand new look and is finishing up final repairs this month just in time for the summer season. Area restaurants, including the South Beach Grill at Wrightsville Beach which had to be gutted and rebuilt, also opened earlier this spring. Airlie Gardens, which lost more than 200 trees, had new growth by early April when the annual Azalea Festival took place. Wilmington’s historic waterfront and attractions such as the Wilmington Railroad Museum, Cotton Exchange and Chandlers Wharf have rebounded since the storm.

Fallen trees and storm debris have been cleared from the Cape Fear River and the Intracoastal Waterway, but work continues on the pier at Carolina Beach. Some repairs continue on the USS North Carolina Battleship, but it is open for tours. The Federal Courthouse, where episodes of Andy Griffith’s “Matlock” were filmed, is still dealing with mold. The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, which lost only two seahorses during the hurricane, opened to visitors a few days after the storm. If you have not visited Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach since the storm, you’ll be amazed at miraculous recovery they have made. The welcome mat is out! (877-406-2356 or WilmingtonAndBeaches.com)


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Correction: A photo in the March column was incorrectly identified as the Carriage House Inn in Aiken, SC. The published photo featured the antebellum home of James Henry Hammond at Radcliffe Plantation State Historic Site. Carol Timblin welcomes travel news at ctimblin@gmail.com.

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