The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 14, 2014

Civil War Days set to begin Friday in Oceana

BECKLEY — Civil War Days kick off Friday in Oceana with ghost stories by well-known storyteller and author David “Bugs” Stover, at the Gilliland Park Amphitheater, at 7 p.m.  

About 50 re-enactors are expected to participate this year, according to Epp Cline, president of the Wyoming County Historical Museum, which sponsors the annual activities.

Everything the re-enactors will showcase, from the cannons to the uniforms to the tents, is replicas of the Civil War era, according to officials.

“It is a living history,” Cline emphasized.

Portraying both Union and Confederate soldiers, the re-enactors will camp on-site for two nights, living as the soldiers of the time, to give observers a better understanding of that time in United States history.

“I think (both adults and children) will learn about our heritage,” Cline said of the three-day event.

“It’s like that saying, ‘If we don’t know our history, we’re doomed to repeat it.’

“The Civil War was disastrous, both during the war and after. A lot of people died from hunger because there was no food available.

“Our Wyoming County government had to shut down for a while,” Cline said.

“Oceana was the county seat during the Civil War,” he added.

“In Wyoming County, as most other places, it was brother against brother. Families were split with some Confederates and some for the Union.

“Wyoming County had one lady who was a spy,” Cline noted. “I believe she had married a Confederate.”

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“West Virginia was created because of the Civil War, so this is a great opportunity for county residents to come out and experience what their ancestors lived through in a fun and entertaining manner,” according to Jim Cook, who organizes the annual activities.

“I think visitors learn a lot from re-enactments,” Cook added.

“When you visit a camp, it’s not like reading a textbook; you are actually transported back to the 1860s and can see how soldiers lived and how they did things.

“And, by having Union and Confederate camps, visitors get both sides of the story from re-enactors who are very knowledgeable in Civil War history,” Cook emphasized.

“Being a history buff myself, I’ve gone to many re-enactments and always seem to learn something new.”

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The annual event also has an economic impact on the town and surrounding areas, according to officials.

“You have around 50 re-enactors and their families, the majority of which aren’t from the local area, who for three days purchase food, gas, supplies, etc., from local businesses,” Cook said.

“You also have those who visit the camps who stop for gas, snacks and food here in town.

“Then, there is the cost of putting on the event, which the museum (board) spends the majority of our budget here in the county,” Cook noted.

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On Friday, the re-enactors will be registering and setting up their camps.

At 7 p.m., the event opens to the public.

Stover will share his ghostly tale of a Wyoming County Civil War soldier who died in the battle that has become known as the “Skirmish at Matheny Chapel” in 1862. It is the only Civil War battle fought in Wyoming County that is documented in Washington, D.C., records, Stover said.

Stover has a large collection of ghostly tales based in Wyoming County. He does extensive research, once he hears a story, to make certain it is at least based on fact.

“Who really knows?” Stover said. “They are ghost stories, after all.”

He will also share Civil War-era ghost stories from Droop Mountain and Gettysburg.

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This year, there will also be three cannons, Cline said.

The camp, located behind Oceana Middle School, will open at 9 a.m. Saturday.

A battle re-enactment is scheduled at 2 p.m.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, a Civil War ball will be conducted at the amphitheater. Music will be provided by Tower Street String Band.

Costumes are welcome, but not required, Cook said.

At 9:30 p.m., a cannon “night fire” is scheduled.

On Sunday, the camp will again open to the public at 9 a.m.

A Civil War church service is scheduled at 10:30 a.m.

A battle re-enactment is scheduled for 2 p.m. and the camp will close at 3 p.m.

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Additional sponsors for the three-day event include the Wyoming County Commission and the Wyoming County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

— E-mail: mcbrooks@register-herald.com

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