Dear Ace: What with all the history around here, is there anyone in Charlottesville who does historical re-enactments?—Lee N. Grant
Lee: Well, there are those folks over at Ash Lawn-Highland, including a slave re-enactor that is certainly one of the stranger blurrings of the whole re-enactment thing that Ace has ever come across, but Ace assumes you’re thinking something with a little more action. Ace assumes you’re thinking dudes in gray wool huddling around a fire at 5am, eating fatback and hardtack, and then pointing model rifles at each other across a meadow. So where are they?
Civil War re-enactors like these don’t gravitate to Charlottesville, which was virtually untouched during the conflict
The problem is that there just haven’t been any notable battles to speak of in the Charlottesville area. Virginia was virtually untouched by the Revolutionary War, Charlottesville and Albemarle were virtually untouched by the Civil War, and William Faulkner’s battles with his inner demons back when he lived here wouldn’t make for the most riveting re-enactments. So unless someone’s game to pretend to be Thomas Jefferson escaping from British regulars out the back door of Monticello, Charlottesville’s not likely to become the epicenter of the re-enactment scene anytime soon. But don’t give up hope yet: There are re-enactors around here; it’s just that they have to hit the road to do their re-enacting.
Robert Pugh, formerly commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and currently the president of the “19th Virginia Reenactors,” leads a group of volunteers who, Pugh says, “participate in re-enactments in uniform, to give an accurate picture of what a soldier’s life was like.” Whereas the SCV is primarily about historical preservation and honoring the memory of Confederate military veterans (though, Pugh is quick to point out, “not so much the cause itself as the folks who were willing to give their all for that military”), the 19th are the ones actually out there chewing the fatback. “My re-enactors represent Company B, or the ‘Albemarle Rifles,’ a company of men made up from Charlottesville and Albemarle County that was one of 11 companies of the 19th Virginia Infantry,” explains Pugh. Indeed, though there may not have been any Civil War battles around here, there were certainly soldiers, and Pugh’s 19th takes part, along with three other camps of re-enactors from Virginia, Ohio and New Jersey, in reminding folks of that, traveling around Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, to participate in battle re-enactments. Now if the 19th could stage a massive battle royal with the Ash Lawn-Highland people and maybe a Jefferson impersonator or two, that’d be something to see.