Groups re-enact church’s Civil War sendoff

Published 11:10 pm Friday, May 13, 2011

Members of the Tom Smith Camp 1703 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy gathered at Bethlehem Christian Church to re-enact a Civil War sendoff.

Amid all the hoopla surrounding the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, it can be hard to ensure every aspect of the war is covered thoroughly in re-enactments and other events.

But the Tom Smith Camp 1702 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, as well as the United Daughters of the Confederacy, made sure the religious aspect of the war was covered last weekend.

Mike Pullen and Scott Carraway stand in the aisle of Bethlehem Christian Church during the service.

After a number of Saturday events that involved a portrayal of soldiers from Suffolk and surrounding communities mustering in downtown and then marching to the train station, more re-enactors gathered Sunday at Bethlehem Christian Church for an educational event that also paid tribute to the role religion played in the hearts of those who lived during the war.

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“It went great,” said Mike Pullen, commander of the camp. “It was a good follow-up from Saturday’s events, but it could have stood by itself.”

All the church’s Sunday school classes gathered in the meeting hall for a period fashion show and a question-and-answer session. The re-enactors showed how various people would have dressed 150 years ago — bankers, farmers, women in casual dress, women in mourning, women in their Sunday best, and more.

The camp historian, Robert Archer, led the educational session.

“He did a great job doing that,” Pullen said.

During the church service, the re-enactors filed into the sanctuary, with the women lining the front of the room and the men standing in the middle aisle while period music and excerpts from films like “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals” played on screen.

The men then pledged allegiance to the flag of Virginia and received their blessings from the women as they left, a tribute to the occasion also being Mother’s Day.

“It was very moving,” Pullen said. “The church service was about the honor and valor of the Confederate soldiers and those that went off to war.”

Bethlehem Christian Church was chosen for the program, because it was an enlistment site for men from the area 150 years ago, Pullen said.

“Regiments were formed there,” he said.

Pullen said it’s important to recognize all aspects of life during the war, both to educate and to remember.

“Everybody picks one thing that they’ll argue about, but there is so much more,” Pullen said. “We try to educate people. It wasn’t to protect one institution or this, that and the other. The thought was to protect our home, our way of life, our family.”