PARKERSBURG - The Civil War re-enactors with Carlin's Battery entertained more than 40 people at Fort Boreman Historic Park on Monday evening.
The cold temperatures didn't stop participants from bundling up in their Civil War-era clothing to re-enact the traditions of Christmas at the historical park. Members of the community gathered around the stone firepit, illuminated by the bonfire within.
Patty Cooper of Vienna, dressed in her Civil War-era clothing, led a program of Christmas carol singing interspaced with brief, humorous history lessons about the traditions associated with Christmas.
Dustin Spohn, left, and Chuck Hall, two members of the Carlin's Battery D, talk inside the small cabin Monday before the start of the “Christmas at the Cabin” at Fort Boreman Park. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
This is the sixth year for the Christmas at the Cabin tradition, said Jim Miracle, captain of the Carlin's Battery re-enactors. The battery uses the cabin at Fort Boreman Historic Park as its headquarters, said Miracle.
The group of 16 re-enactors braved the cold and the muddy conditions to create a moment of living history for modern area citizens to enjoy, said Miracle.
"Back during the Civil War, when there were more than 400 soldiers from the 11th West Virginia Infantry, from Wheeling, stationed up here at Fort Boreman, they invited the people of Parkersburg to come up and join them to celebrate Christmas," said Miracle. "Those men were far away from their families, but the local people did their best to make them feel at home during the holidays," he said.
From 6 p.m. until 7:15 p.m., carols echoed across the hilltop and the fire crackled into the overcast evening sky.
A Christmas tree decorated with traditional decorations, including a paper chain and other paper ornaments, sat on the cabin porch, close to thermoses of coffee, hot chocolate and mulled cider. Trays of cookies lined the side of the cabin porch nearest the fire.
"If there hadn't been a Civil War 150 years ago, and soldiers stationed here to need comfort from the townsfolk at Christmas, we wouldn't have a country today," said re-enactor Patrick Lyons, 54. "That's what makes re-enacting, especially the Christmas at the Cabin, so special," he said.
This is but one of the annual events hosted by Carlin's Battery, said Miracle. The first Christmas at the Cabin was held in 2008, and had 20 people present. Last year's event drew the largest crowd, with about 100 guests.
"We do this out of our love for history," said Miracle. "Everyone is able to find their re-enactment niche, what makes them happy, and for me, it was the Civil War," he said.
Keith Hardin, 11, a student at Blennerhassett Middle School, stood in full Civil War uniform alongside the older participants with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. He has been participating with Carlin's Battery for three years. "I enjoy the history of it all, and I get to learn a lot of neat things," said Hardin. "I also get to tell my friends that I get to shoot really big guns, and that is lots of fun," he said.
Dustin Spohn, 17, a Waterford High School student, said his favorite part of being an re-enactor is he gets to go to so many different places and learn about the battles that happened there. "But blowing things up with big guns is the best part," he said.
Spohn and Hardin fill an important part of the Civil War re-enactment, said Spohn. "We are the Powder Monkeys for the group," Spohn said. Their job is to carry the ammunition from the storage area to the cannons, walking backward while doing so to protect the ammunition with their own bodies.
"Enemy snipers felt bad about shooting kids in the back," said Spohn, "which is why kids our age were used," he said.
For more information on Carlin's Battery, go to the website: www.carlinsbatteryd.org.