Elizabeth City: Civil War Living History Day

February 8, 2009 at 3:54 pm 16 comments

On Saturday, the Museum of the Albemarle hosted a Civil War Living History Day. For the entire afternoon, Civil War Reenacters posted themselves in front of the museum and spoke about the trials of the era. Joined by our neighbor, Khalif, Ryan Somma and I walked down to check out the event.

I found the event to be fascinating– but it wasn’t the soldiers that really captivated me. When I was there, the soldiers pretty much just sat around camp.

Living History Day - Soldier with Grass
Sitting soldier

Living History Day - Soldier with Harmonica
Another sitting soldier, though this one has a harmonica

If the Civil War Living History Day were limited to guys with guns alone, it wouldn’t have been especially memorable. Luckily, the geeks stole the show! A blacksmith pounded out metal leaves right in front of us. A naval navigator talked about the prerequisite of creating an accurate clock to calculate longitude. Old maps were on display (You could tell that they were old because West Virginia and Virginia were one state).

But my personal favorite of the whole day was Al Mitchell. He’s a naval engineer reenactor. He spoke passionately (very passionately) about how engineers kept the war ships running. He discussed a number of antique tools he had with him, many of them procured on eBay. One unexpected tool made a cameo– the sliderule. Al had no shortage of specialized knowledge to share. I could have talked to him all day.

Living History Day - Blacksmith Hammered Leaf
Blacksmith at work

Living History Day - Coals
Blacksmith’s fire

Living History Day - Swinging Hourglass
This hourglass is useless in calculating longitute

Living History Day - Maps
Old maps and navigation equipment

Living History Day - Al Mitchell Discusses the Sliderule
Al Mitchell, Naval Engineer Reenacter, talks about the sliderule

In 1986, Time Magazine estimated that there were 50,000 people who participated in Civil War reenacting. Al Mitchell said on Saturday there were are only five engineers.

I understand that “Men Who Build Things” is never going to be as exciting as “Men Who Shoot Things”.

But, boy, it would be great if there were more Al Mitchells out there.

More pictures of Elizabeth City’s Civil War Living History Day can be found on my Flickr site.


Entry filed under: Civil War, Elizabeth City, Neighborhood Kids.

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16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. geekhiker  |  February 8, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Ah, romanticizing history. Me, personally, I’d rather be one of the engineers. Not a big fan of being in the way of lead balls coming my way…

  • 2. Jientje  |  February 8, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Wow, I love your pictures from this event. Thanks for taking me there, I so enjoyed it!

  • 3. Building Things « You Got to Be Kidding Me!  |  February 9, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    […] in Home Improvement by Stacy McMahon on February 9th, 2009 I was reading over Vicky’s description of an unexpectedly interesting Civil War reenactment in her new locale of Elizabeth City. But my personal favorite of the whole day was Al Mitchell. […]

  • 4. ideonexus  |  February 10, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    The Geek Civil War historians were definitely the more interesting. They had so much passion for the subject. It was like talking to a Star Trek fanatic, but… you know… it was relevant to real life. : )

  • 5. Clint  |  February 10, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    Star Trek is actually more relevant to real life than people realize. There’s a documentary about all the technology people created via Star Trek’s inspiration.

    That technology includes the Cell Phone. The inventor got the idea from Star Trek. That was probably 5 out of the 44 minutes of the documentary..

  • 6. Chriggy  |  February 11, 2009 at 12:59 am

    I’ve seen that documentary. Pretty good. Yup, there’s actually a lot of real world technology that can be directly attributed to Star Trek.

  • 7. tgaw  |  February 11, 2009 at 8:27 am

    This conversation reminds me of an episode of West Wing. Snippets:

  • 8. ideonexus  |  February 11, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    You guys are talking about Trekkies, right? I love that movie. My brother, the hip one, was mocking the geeks the whole time, but I was really impressed with how ST had inspired all these people to become doctors and scientists.

  • 9. Clint  |  February 11, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Ryan, that kind of doesn’t surprise me RE:your brother. He doesn’t even believe in evolution, right? So of course he would mock science.

  • 10. charlie ukraine  |  April 9, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    i was reenacting there. i was one of the guys with guns but not those in the pictures. the guy with the harmonica is my company commander and that other one was a guy who wanted to join our regiment. but the guy with harmonica said no because he was too big.( that chair he was sitting in he couldn’t even get up out of)

    P.S.- all the equipment in the background including the chairs are mine.

  • 11. tgaw  |  April 10, 2009 at 9:48 am

    @charlie – Neat! Thanks for the behind the scenes info. I’m sorry I missed you in the photographs!

  • 12. charlie ukraine  |  April 17, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    you know there’ll be one next year right?
    i hope next year the calvalry will be able to come because that will be something to talk about
    it’ll be bigger and better next year hopefully

  • 13. charlie ukraine  |  April 17, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    i wont be there next year though 😦

  • 14. tgaw  |  April 19, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    @charlie – Sounds fun– it would certainly be neat to see a calvary. I’ll keep an eye out for the event next year!

  • 15. Daniel Creasy  |  July 15, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Next year I might go down there and be a Confederate reenacter if I have a uniform.

  • 16. charlie ukraine  |  November 20, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    @Daniel- did u just start reenacting or something? what unit are u with?


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