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150 years later, soldiers in blue and gray do battle

Bill Hohnhorst says the little girl looked like she was about to cry.

He had just fallen to the ground, feigning death as part of this past weekend’s Civil War re-enactments in Spotsylvania County. He says he overheard the girl, who was about 6 feet away, ask her mom, “Did he get hurt?”

So Hohnhorst, 73, lifted his head off the ground and said, “I’m OK sweetie.”

“I didn’t mean to scare her,” he said.

Hohnhorst was among the estimated 3,000 re-enactors at Spotsylvania’s sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War’s Overland Campaign, which concluded Sunday with a re-enactment of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

The event in the historic courthouse area drew visitors from all over the country and abroad. Gunfire, booming cannon, smoke and war cries filled the air as spectators munched on kettle corn or filmed the action with their smartphones.

“I think it’s really cool how everyone came together to do such a big event like this,” said spectator Monica Whitlow, 16, of Spotsylvania. “It’s really nice that they have that in Spotsylvania.”

Confederate re-enactor Cody Hart, 18, of Spotsylvania said he participated in some faux hand-to-hand combat in Sunday’s battle.

“I pretended I hit someone with my gun, and they fell back down the hill,” he said. “And then I died, too” after an officer pretended to stab him.

“At that point, I was figuring it was time to die,” recalled Hart, a senior at Riverbend High School.

The adrenaline was flowing, and Hart said he did see a real fight break out. But it was broken up quickly, he said, calling the incident “nothing serious.”

Re-enactor Greg Bullock of Kennett Square, Pa., said he was disappointed in the event’s location along the Courthouse Road Bypass. “You kind of lose some of the feel of it,” he said. “We’ve done events where you’re so far removed that there’s not even a modern telephone pole [in sight] so you really can get lost in the moment.”

Meanwhile, Hohnhorst put the event in his top 10. One of the best parts was on Friday, he said, when about 44 busloads of Spotsylvania students dropped by. “They were so hungry for information.”

A retired Marine, Hohnhorst started participating in re-enactments after learning that his great grandfather was in the Civil War’s 88th New York Irish Brigade. He joined a Confederate regiment because he said he fell in love with the south during his military days.

“I’m retired and now I’m back in uniform,” said Hohnhorst, who lives in Long Island, N.Y. “I just can’t get enough of it.”

jbranscome@freelancestar.com

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