Battle Born: Civil War takes center stage this weekend
Special to the Nevada Appeal
People can send summer out with a bang while celebrating history during the Virginia City Civil War Days and Labor Day Parade.
The Saturday-through-Monday event includes a Civil War encampment at Miner’s Park, and Civil War battle re-enactments during rides on the historic V&T Railroad as well as on the streets of Virginia City. There also will be a Victorian high tea, a Johnny Cash tribute concert and Civil War ball.
“It’s really important to us to bring history to life,” said Izabella Hunt-Jones, vice president and event coordinator for the Comstock Civil War Reenactors, which sponsors the three-day festival.
The encampment at Miner’s Park portrays a typical Army camp during the 1860s, including a civilian camp amid the military presence, Hunt-Jones said. Visitors to the camp will see many tents, cooking over open fires, women doing laundry for the soldiers, seamstresses sewing on buttons, a chaplain and a doctor.
“A lot of women traveled with the camp,” Hunt-Jones said. “A lot of people don’t know that.
“Women were also in uniform, although they tried to hide the fact they were women. About 1,000 (women in Union and Confederate armies) have been authenticated.”
Many women traveled with the armies because they had no place to go, Hunt-Jones said. They went with their husbands, sons and brothers and helped in the camps.
A highlight of Civil War Days is the battle re-enactments by the Comstock Civil War Reenactors during V&T Railroad train trips all three days and a street battle Monday. Besides four daytime battle trains, a special champagne battle train will take place Saturday evening.
The battle trains all leave from the V&T Railroad Depot in Virginia City for trips lasting 40-50 minutes. The historic No. 29 Steam Engine is planned to pull the battle trains, said Tom Gray, vice president of the V&T.
“If people haven’t seen (the battle trains), it really is like a movie set,” said Gray, who coordinates the operating logistics of the V&T. “It’s also a fundraiser for the re-enactors. It’s amazing.”
The engine will tow three historic passenger cars plus a flat car carrying cannons, which come into play during “attacks” in Gold Hill. Expect to see a passenger, played by a stunt woman, “killed” during the battle.
Another battle takes place Monday immediately following the Labor Day Parade, to finish the weekend with a lot of firepower. The re-enactors will engage in a free street battle near the Bucket of Blood and Delta saloons. The Confederate soldiers enter C Street from one end and the Union soldiers from the other.
Street battles are “our most difficult, our most challenging, because safety is paramount,” Hunt-Jones said. “They’re also the most exciting because it’s at eye level.”
Ladies from the Civil War camp line the sidewalks to watch out for spectators’ safety, she said.
While the Civil War battles are the loudest and most exciting part of the weekend celebration, many other events offer information and Victorian flavor.
Veterans will be honored in the parking lot of the Silverland Inn & Suites, where the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall can be viewed, as well as other military displays from Thursday through Monday.
Saturday evening, Jimmy Ray & Black Train — Johnny Cash Tribute presents a concert at 7:30 p.m. at Piper’s Opera House, 12 N. B St. The cost is $20.
A Civil War Ball will follow the concert at the opera house. Guests are encouraged to wear period costumes, although anyone is welcome to the free ball. The Civil War Band will play period instruments while dance master Gus Tafferson calls the dance and teaches the steps.
“If you can walk, you can dance,” Hunt-Jones said. “Gus has been doing this for years, and he knows his history.”
President Abraham Lincoln will be the special guest at the Victorian High Tea served at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Delta Saloon. The cost is $25.
Wayne Spencer, a descendent of Lincoln, will play the Civil War president and signatory of the charter creating the state of Nevada. The Confederacy’s General Robert E. Lee, played by Lyn Wheeler, also will be in attendance. The Civil War Band will entertain during the tea.
The Labor Day Parade on Monday continues the long tradition of parades in Virginia City at which folks line the wooden sidewalks to enjoy the nostalgia of an old-fashioned western-flavored parade.