Civil War Courier

Follow Us On:

Appomattox: The long road home

Posted on Wednesday, July 1, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Editor’s note: This was the article Todd Campbell had just completed and was to forward to us the day of his death. His son Bob was able to locate it and forward it to us so we could share this final contribution of Todd Campbell. When he started the article with: The final installment in the series, I am sure he could never have envisioned it being the last article he would write in his eventful life.  Reading his words for a final time, it is difficult for us to realize that he is no longer with us. The July August edition of The Camp Chase Gazette has a tribute to Todd by Bob Ruegsegger titled: Re-enactor-Journalist has seen more than the Elephant.  If you are not a subscriber please contact us for a copy.

Appomattox Va. – The final installment in the series of Sesquicentennial reenactments entitled “The Long Road Home” was held on the weekend of 10-12 April 2015. The final event in a five year program drew over three thousand reenactors to this small Central Virginia town. It was sponsored by the Appomattox County Historical Society, United Daughters of the Confederacy Appomattox Chapter 11, Lee’s Lieutenants and the Federal Generals Corps.

The sequence of five reenactments began with “Cold Harbor” in April 2011. This was followed by Five Forks in April 2012, Fall of Richmond in April 2013 and “Sailors Creek” in April 2014. The final event, Long Road Home 150 Appomattox was held on a 20 acre site in the Appomattox Center for Business and Commerce which was in the Northwest corner of the town.

The site opened to bright sunny skies on Tuesday, April 9, 2015. Unfortunately the fine weather didn’t last long as three inches of rain struck the following day. With participants now entering the site the interior roads where soon reduced to muddy tracks. The sky remained dreary and overcast through Thursday and on into Friday noon. During this time the event sponsors brought in truck load after truck load of wood mulch and crushed stone to keep the roads firm.

An early casualty of the wet ground was programs to bring the public school children to the encampment for a visit on Friday 10 April.  Due the boggy conditions at the site and the constant road work the students were unable to attend. The sun reappeared on Friday afternoon with a strong wind and the site finally began to dry out. Saturday and Sunday were absolutely perfect days for reenacting.

The event opened at 9 a.m. on Friday. The event organizers employed a very clever marketing strategy for admission. For a fee of $35 the public was able to attend the event all three days. A ticket was good Friday through Sunday and the result was large crowds every day.

When the event opened on Friday morning the number of spectators quickly increased in number. The streets in the military and living history camps were filled with visitors asking all sorts of questions. There was a large number of school age children present leaving one to surmise that while the public school students were not attending the home schooled were out in force.

The only action of day was the Battle of Appomattox Station which was scheduled for Friday afternoon.  The fight recreated the battle between Confederate infantry and Federal cavalry over several trains loaded with supplies for General Lee’s army. The Union cavalry was successful in capturing the trains which prevented a resupply of the Rebel forces. It was an interesting engagement between Confederate infantry and Federal horsemen with their horse drawn artillery.

The fight was of short duration and was followed by a short rain shower. Saturday came in bright and sunny which helped the fields dry after Wednesday’s rain . The event opened at 9 a.m. and the site filled with spectators. There was a large activity tent which featured speakers as well as book signings by Civil War authors. The speakers were first person reenactors from Lee’s Lieutenants and the Federal Generals Corps. There was also a large area for the over 30 sutlers displaying their various goods and services.

The military action of the day was the Battle of Appomattox recreating the action between Federal and Confederate forces early on the morning of April 9, 1865. The Second Corps of Lee’s Army led by General John B Gordon attacked Federal cavalry led by General Custer attempting to break Custer’s line. The Confederates almost succeeded but were stopped by the arrival of Federal infantry from the Union Army of the James approaching from the south. With his way now blocked to west, General Lee was forced to ask for terms.

The battle was originally scheduled for 11 a.m. but was supposed to be postponed until 3 p.m. due to the wet fields. Due to a missed communications the 11 a.m. fight went on as scheduled. It was followed by the rescheduled action at three o’clock.  The spectators were treated to two battles instead of one. This concluded the fighting in the event as Sunday or surrender day was designated a special day with no gunfire permitted.

With the battle concluded, Saturday wound slowly down toward evening. The big event of the night was of course the Saturday night dance. The large activity tent quickly filled with ladies and gentlemen in their best finery. They were serenaded by the music of the Second South Carolina String Band and their extensive repertoire of period music.

Saturday evening passed into another glorious day as dawn brought another bright and sunny day. With the sunshine and a strong breeze blowing, the soggy ground at the site continued to quickly dry. The event opened at its scheduled time and the first order of business were religious services. The main event of the day was of course the Surrender Ceremony which was scheduled for 11 a.m.

The final act of the Appomattox reenactment was the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia by General R E Lee. This ritual is not something that is readily observed even by veteran reenactors. In over 20 years of reenactments your correspondent cannot ever recall witnessing this really solemn rite. The service is a rather simple affair but is packed with emotion.

The observance began with Federal troops standing in a doubled rank line at shoulder arms. The Confederate troops marched in the site in a column of fours until they were ordered to halt and then face front into a double ranked line. The order to stack arms was given and the soldiers staked their muskets into groups of four and placed their battle flags horizontally between the stacks.

With his troops still in ranks General Lee and members of his staff read the general’s famous General Order Number 9 to his men.  After the order was read the Confederates were ordered to break ranks and disperse, which they reluctantly did. There was a small amount of emotion on the Rebel side with a few wet eyes. The Federal troops on the other hand seemed rather embarrassed that their former opponents were forced to endure such a ritual. However, with service completed the event was now officially over.

Due to the special nature of the Appomattox event this publication decided to query some of the event participants as well as an observer on their views of the event.

Captain John Douglas, Commander  Stribling’s  Battery
S&FN:  “Any thoughts on what occurred here a century and a half ago?”
JD:  “With the issue of slavery settled, both armies provided the leadership necessary to rebuild this country.”

Captain William Smith Commander  19TH  Ohio Light Artillery
S&FN: “Now that the Sesquicentennial is over are you going to remain in the hobby?”
WS:  “I have no intention of leaving.”
Henry  Kidd  12TH  Virginia Infantry
S&FN: “Any chance of getting emotional during the surrender tomorrow?”
HK: “At the one twenty fifth I swore those Yankees were not going to get to me and I bawled like a baby. It will probably happen here.”

Colonel David Childs Commander First Division  United States Volunteers
S&FN: “What does the future hold for you Colonel Childs?”
DC: “ The future is the Grand Review next month, getting out of sponsoring events but remaining in reenacting.”

David Meisky  AKA Governor/ General William “ Extra Billy “Smith  Lee’s Lieutenants
S&FN: “ What was the reaction of Governor Smith to the surrender?”
DM:  “He was invited to join Jefferson Davis’s flight but decided it was best to remain in Virginia and serve as Governor.”

Paul Bourget   AKA  General George Sears Greene   Federal Generals Corps
S&FN: “What was General Green’s opinion of Appomattox?”
PB: “He was disappointed. He felt that Johnston should be crushed and Lee annihilated.”
Darwin Rosemon Postmaster  Confederate Postal Service
S&FN: “Being on the losing side what are your feelings toward events at Appomattox?”
DR: “I am proud of my ancestors and what they stood for.”

Dale Murray Christian Commission
S&FN: “With the big events of the Sesquicentennial over do you have any concerns?”
DM:” My only concern is that there will be a mass exodus from reenacting now the Sesquicentennial is over.”

Jamelle Bouie   Staff writer for Slate Magazine
S&FN: “What do you feel is the most important aspect of Civil War reenacting?”
JB: “Public memory. It is very important to remember the past.”

All in all Appomattox 150 reenactment was a fitting end to “The Long Road Home” series. While not perfect due to the early rainfall it was obvious through out the event that the organizers and promoters did everything to accommodate the reenactors as well as the spectators. The most constant complaint was the large number of cars in the campsites throughout the weekend.

-By T. Scott Campbell

If you liked this article and would like to see more, subscribe to our print and/or digital editions. We have the only online library of the best researched reenactor information dating back to 2005. Click here to subscribe