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Civil War comes to life at Barboursville Park

May. 04, 2013 @ 09:50 PM

BARBOURSVILLE -- Becoming a Civil War re-enactor came somewhat naturally for John Belcher of Huntington.

Belcher was involved in planning a re-enactment a few years ago when someone pointed out how similar his appearance was to Confederate Gen. Albert Gallatin Jenkins, who was born in Cabell County, Virginia, now West Virginia.

"They asked me if I would like to be involved in the re-enactment, and I said, 'Yes,'" said Belcher. "Of course, that was before I priced the uniform. So once I had the uniform and was involved with one event, I had a good enough time that I thought it would be worth the investment of my money and time to keep at it."

The rest, as they say, is history.

Gen. Jenkins came to life Saturday afternoon during Barboursville Civil War Days at Barboursville Park, which runs until Sunday afternoon.

More than 40 re-enactors and some of their loved ones have camped out near the lake at the park, where their battle re-enactments have taken place this weekend.

Small shops, a soldier's camp, a medic tent and even an amputation station have been set up around the lake and are open to members of the public.

Carl "Bear" McCoy is the captain of Chapman's Battery, which includes the re-enactors at this weekend's event. The battery is comprised of re-enactors who come from Cabell and Wayne counties and even as far away as Maryland.

While re-enactments are a fun way to spend a weekend, McCoy and other re-enactors said it's also a great chance for residents to get a hands-on experience regarding their local history.

"It's a chance to actually learn what it was like in the 1800s and the Civil War," said McCoy. "I think a lot of people don't know a lot about a lot of the reasons for the war, and we try to focus on sharing that by sharing the way of life of that time. It is a great chance to come and learn about this time in history."

For Belcher, bringing a historical figure like Jenkins to life is a privilege because the studying the political and economic climate of the country at that time can provide valuable lessons that still are beneficial today.

"It really is looking at your local history. All of these soldiers had lives before the war. They were farmers, merchants or, in Jenkins' case, lawyers, and they went as Virginia did," said Belcher. "There is a strong correlation between what was going on in Congress in 1860 to what is going on now, as far as politics go. When learned men refuse to speak for the sake of compromise, you will find strife."

Barboursville Civil War Days will continue Sunday, May 5. There will be a church service at the shelter near the lake at 10 a.m., and the next battle re-enactment will take place at 2 p.m. Camp will close at 4 p.m.