Civil War Era comes to Suffolk

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 4, 2005

Approximately 2,000 people are expected to step back in time during Suffolk’s Civil War Weekend April 9 and 10.

The second annual festival in Suffolk’s historic downtown will feature a wealth of history-related activities – expert guest speakers, re-enactment camps, musical performances and the like, said Theresa L. Earles, the city’s tourism development coordinator.

Most of the event, including the entertainment stage, exhibits, vendors and crafters, will be along Prentis Street, she said. The thoroughfare will be closed to auto traffic for the weekend.

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The festival site will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

The &uot;All-American Opening Ceremony&uot; will kick off at noon on the center stage, paying tribute to heroes past and present.

&uot;This is a celebration paying tribute to our troops who are fighting or have fought for our country,&uot; said Earles. &uot;I definitely hope we have a good turnout for this event.&uot;

Visitors can catch performances by a variety of artists over the weekend, including Suffolk’s own Peanut City Cloggers, Coal City Bluegrass, Evergreen Shade, Moonstruck Music, Blue River Band and Bob Zentz.

Over the course of the weekend, festival-goers will be able hear from several Civil War experts and authors, Earles said.

&uot;The speakers are going to give participants an education,&uot; she said. &uot;The selection of authors we have coming are absolutely wonderful, each in his own right.&uot;

Authors slated to speak include:

nSuffolk native and University of Virginia Professor Brian Wills, who authored The War Hits Home: The Civil War in Southeastern Virginia.

nDavid Poyer, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and author of 26 books who specializes in writing naval novels. His latest work is The Command and That Anvil of Our Souls, a Novel of Monitor and Merrimack.

nJohn V. Quarstein, director of the Virginia War Museum and renowned history author. His works include Fort Monroe: The Key to the South; The Battle of the Ironclads; Hampton and Newport News in the Civil War: War Comes to the Peninsula; The Civil War on the Virginia Peninsula; and World War One on the Virginia Peninsula, Newport News: A Centennial History.

nDr. E. Curtis Alexander, author of Over 100 Little Known Facts About the US Colored Troops During the Civil War and Afro-Virginian Union Army and Navy Patriots from Lower Tidewater.

nKeith Dickson, author of Civil War for Dummies.

nHarry Thompson, curator of the North Carolina Port O’Plymouth Museum, who wrote Bertie Folklore: Legend and Lore of Bertie County and The Lost Town of &uot;Cashy.&uot;

nEric Sheppard, founder of the Slave Descendants Freedom Society Inc. and author of

Ancestor’s Call, will speak on the Great Dismal Swamp, an official site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program.

All authors will be available for book signings following their respective presentations, Earles said. For a nominal fee, families can enjoy horse and buggy rides or guided lantern tours through Cedar Hill Cemetery and narrated bus tours of Civil War sites around the city.

History buffs can get a jump on activities by attending a presentation by the Suffolk Art League’s guest speaker, Dr. Elizabeth O’Leary, guest curator of the servant life exhibition at Maymont Foundation. She will speak on the work of Civil War illustrator Winslow Homer at the Suffolk Museum at 7:30 p.m. April 8.

Other events planned for the weekend include the awards ceremony for a citywide Civil War poetry contest for elementary, middle and high school students and a memorial service honoring the 98th anniversary of the passing of Confederate Brig. Gen. Laurence Simmons Baker.

The event is sponsored by the Suffolk Division of Tourism, Suffolk Parks and

Recreation, Riddick’s Folly House Museum, Seaboard Station Railroad Museum, SEVAC, Sons of Confederate Veterans/Tom Smith Camp, Norfolk County Grays Camp 1549, Target, Producers Peanuts, Duke Automotive, Martin Screenprints & Embroidery, Suffolk Art League, Special Events Entertainment and the Suffolk United Daughters of the Confederacy.

For more information, contact the Suffolk Visitor Center at 923-3880.