The afternoon started out fairly quietly, other than a young boy occasionally shouting, “Newspapers for sale! Read all about it!” Then, a little after 1:00pm, a canon shot thundered out, startling the onlookers and marking the beginning of the battle. For the next half-hour, Union and Confederate bullets tore through the air as the Yankees tried to dislodge the Rebels from their mountaintop position. And when the last clouds of smoke lifted off the field, and the Rebel Yell could be heard no more, the wounded on both sides began to move; while many more lay still.
And I witnessed it all at the reenactment of the Battle of Droop Mountain, held at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, in southeastern West Virginia, this past Sunday, October 11, 2015. A good-sized crowd of spectators and actors enjoyed a gorgeous fall day with clear blue skies and a temperature of around 70 degrees. But many of them probably did not know that the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) played a large role in preserving this historical site.
The Battle of Droop Mountain occurred on November 6, 1863. It “represented Civil War in its truest… form. The heaviest fight occurred on the left flank where former neighbors in the 10th West Virginia and 19th Virginia met in the closest combat. While one brother fought against the Confederates on the left flank, another with the 22nd Virginia defended the right.” Casualties were about 119 Union and 275 Confederate. 72 years later, young men in the CCC came to the battlefield to preserve the history and to create a park. According to the West Virginia Department of Commerce, “Camp Price was established in 1935 on Droop Mountain at the site of the 1863 Civil War battle. During two short years Camp Price enrollees reclaimed the battlefield [presumably by removing trees and undergrowth], planted trees, constructed cabins and the lookout tower and developed the picnic areas; most of the existing current park buildings are CCC constructed buildings… One rental cabin built by the enrollees is a Civil War Museum and also houses some CCC artifacts.”
Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park is just one of many examples of New Deal efforts to preserve Civil War history. Others projects included repair & restoration work at Antietam National Battlefield, Gettysburg National Military Park, the War Correspondents Memorial Arch, and Fort Frederick, which also has history dating back to the French & Indian War. And these New Deal investments greatly benefit us today, highlighted by Civil War reenactments, history tourism, and preserved artifacts.
So get out there and enjoy your Civil War History, courtesy of the New Deal.