War is Hell! For all the men and women who fought for our freedom and way of life, this was and is a true statement. On November 7 and 8,though, for us it was a WALK IN THEIR BOOTS through a time-warp into the past. In honor of veterans past and present, various groups in the region got together to portray the lives and hardships of those who fought in military campaigns from the Revolution, to the War of 1812, to the Civil War and World War I and II. On Sunday, the timeline continued and was teamed with the Harvest celebration inside Fort Watauga where the reenactors got together and shared a meal of Thanksgiving.
I got there early Friday morning to finish getting cabin 4 ready and raw materials stowed away for the cooking demo I was planning over the next two days. The weather was mild and cloudy but rain was coming and everyone knew it. Because of that, some of the groups, like the paratroopers from Knoxville, could not come and others had to rethink their displays. It was pretty quiet and a few people were there setting up but not many, not yet anyway. As the afternoon progressed, one could see camps being set up. The Civil War camp was impressive, an officers’s tent was attached and fly for the officers to meet to discuss strategies. There was also a hospital and the surgeon was discussing medicine of the time.
Over at the 1812 area, tables were set up for information and displays. The World War II camp was in the woods, German and Allied and a lone tent for the World War 1 doughboy. Earl Slagle set up a longhunter camp in the woods and Will Caldwell set up the tavern as a Tory stronghold. They were landlocked sailors, actually, protesting being pressed into service. I have to say at this point, of all the reenactors there, there were two sets that were the most poignant this year for me. One was Kurt Stevens, the Doughboy, walking around with his blanket over his shoulders, rifle slung over his shoulder, eating his soup ration. His impression was meticulous and I could just imagine a fellow as slight as him, stuck in a trench , miserable, doing the best that he could ,eating a thin gruel trying to keep his strength up, wishing it was his Ma’s home cooking.
The other was unexpected. Randy and Steven Knapp portrayed West Virginia coal miners involved in the Coal wars of the 1920’s. It reminded me that struggles were not limited to armies, foreign and domestic and these men truly suffered.
Saturday was WET; it could have been worse as it could have been cold and wet but even so, attendance was light. Everybody had a good time in spite of the rain and you could see all manners of activity in the various camps and inside the fort. You could hear laughter from the tavern, pots and pans clattering in the Talbot House, doughnuts frying and cookies and cider being served to the veterans in the Hillbilly Hilton and children playing games in the primitive cabin nearby. The Watauga Fife and Drum played throughout the day and you could hear the Civil War drummers in the distance.
Doug Ledbetter had a great display of Continental uniforms and the Doans completed the display with war weapons of the Revolution. Because of the weather, the World War II fellows moved their display to inside the visitor’s center. Also, the Seige of the Fort was canceled as it’s hard to shoot muskets in the rain, but the Civil War skirmish and WW II ambush went as scheduled.
Sunday was much better with the weather and everyone’s spirits were light. John Cornett was the tavern keeper and he poked his head in the tavern. The night before the sailors were grogging and singing shanties and were sound asleep. John woke them up saying ” you have one hour to turn this military flophouse into a respectable Colonial tea room.” CLASSIC!!!
Everyone who had a pot was cooking , preparing for the meal at noon and the rest attended church in the WW II camp.
After church, the Militia formed and drilled. I was amazed that they were actually in a straight line!!! Militia, being what it is, always forms rather crookedly. Later in the day, I heard the cannon booming. that always thrills the crowd.
At noon, the tables were groaning with food and the Militia invited all the reenactors present to share. It was a delicious meal and everyone socialized , swapped stories and enjoyed each other’s company.
After the meal, the Civil War boys encored with a skirmish and The Krauts were routed in the woods. How they did it on a full stomach beats me!
The weekend could have been a total bust but as it was, it turned out great! The public, though light both days, enjoyed the event and all honored those men and women who sacrificed so much for our country.