On the fourth and final day of our historical vacation, Mel and I packed the car, took leave of our host, and drove back to the Industrial Park in time for the big surrender ceremony. As an added bonus, we were early enough we actually got parking on site.
It was only about 10 am but the camp was already a movin’ and shakin’. Half of the sutlers had already packed up and left. Many of the reenactors were also packing up. There were a lot of trucks driving around the camp like modern day horses, with trailers and canon of various sizes in tow.
Over by Lee’s Lieutenants, Lee was on his horse and getting ready to head over to the ceremony. There was some kerfuffle because ThePowersThatBe had changed the location of the surrender ceremony at the last minute. I think they were originally going to do it down the main path that runs along the side of the camp, but there were too many trucks and TPTB were afraid the period look of the pictures would be ruined. Fair enough. So Gen’l Ewell had a clipboard out and was taking a roll call of all the Lieutenants, trying to herd them all, or at least account for them and make sure they knew who was supposed to be where at what time. Another organizer drove up on a golf cart and Ewell looked about as exhausted from all this administrative wrangling as I would expect his Victorian counterpart to be.
Because of the last minute change of venue, event staff were scrambling to keep everything under control. It would now take place behind the camp sort of on a road that runs through a small valley of hills over which the Confederates surged during yesterday’s battle. Sadly, spectators were supposed to stand 100 feet behind the cannon, and only those in period dress could stand at the front. Unfortunately at our end of the field, the volunteer enforcing this was an angry, xenophobic buttmunch who gave a bad name to countryfolk and rednecks everywhere. He should have been reported. It doesn’t matter how stressed out you are, that is no excuse to tell a paying guest she should pack up and go back home to Nicaragua because her kind take too many American jobs.
He kept yelling that only period costumes could go in front to give the pictures an air of authenticity, but it kind of ruined the effect when, like yesterday, everyone in period costume pulled out their cell phones and cameras to record the event. Sigh.
Mel and I moved further down the line to where short people like us could actually see the events. The Federals marched in first with Chamberlain at their head. After careful consideration, he was a decent representation of the man but still not as good as the one from GB a few years previously. I guess the first one made a good impression, who would have thunk it. After the Federals were lined up, their Colonels made them practice saluting and other drills, either to kill time or because they looked like they needed the practice.
Then the Confederates marched in, wave upon wave upon wave of them. There were a couple women and children in the ranks as well. That is something I would be interested in researching a little further. Anyway, there were so many that the audience had to back up another 50 feet. I mentioned to the (much nicer) volunteer that if they tried, the Rebels could probably overtake the Federals and win this time. He thought that was really funny.
I couldn’t hear much of the scripted part, and I couldn’t see much of what was happening, but I assume everything went according to plan. At the very end, after all the arms had been stacked, members of Lee’s Lieutenants (I’m guessing, I couldn’t actually see), took turns reading lines from Lee’s farewell letter(?) to his troops, and then there was an original performance live by some group. The song was called “The Long road Home” and refers to the long road home the Rebels had to take to get back, well, home.
The song made the solemness go on too long into really awkward territory. It was performed well but I was glad it was over. The Confederates then marched out in defeat. Almost immediately, they circled back to pick up their stuff, which was the signal for us to go.
Camp was really moving and shaking now: lots of men running past in butternut pants and undershirts, cannon/horses getting loaded onto trailers and hitched to trucks, while those without trucks figure out how to Tetris their entire camp into a Toyota corolla. It occurred to me that we were in central VA, not GB, so the guys from New York had muuuuuch further to drive than usual. Maybe that could explain the distinct lack of Union forces. Either that or they all decided to go rebel for this portion of the event.
And so without much further ado, Mel and I hit the road to go home for ourselves. On the way we stopped at this place on Rte 29 called Moo Through that had handmade soft serve ice cream. It was a pretty good conclusion to the weekend and just what we needed to get ready for the week ahead.