Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Battle of Big Bethel

Each spring the good folks at Endview Plantation host a Civil War reenactment and each spring I look forward to shooting the two day event as I have since 2007. This year was the 150th Anniversary of The Battle of Big Bethel which took place on June 10, 1861. This was the first land battle in Virginia and very possibly the first land battle of the American Civil War. Okay, the history lesson is over...
If you've never been to a Civil War reenactment, it is definitely worth the time because it is like walking around in a History Channel documentary. The participants are very keen on doing their best to keep everything as close to the period as they can in order for the spectators to get a better idea of what life was like during this time. At Endview Plantation visitors are allowed to wander through the camps prior to the battle. I tend to find myself spending more time in the Confederate camps because the folks just look more interesting. The Union's uniforms were issued whereas the Confederate Infantry uniforms, many times, were nothing more than the clothes they were wearing when they left for the war.

The first day of the reenactment was cloudy and cool with rain showers on the way. We spectators had a great position along the side of the battlefield. It was like watching a football game from the sideline at the 50 yard line. As troops on both sides made their way to the battlefield and set in formation I was hoping the rain clouds in the distance would hold off until the battle was over. As the first shots of the battle were fired, the rain began to fall and I spent the next 20 minutes protecting my gear and not shooting. Eventually the rain moved off and I was able to shot some of the battle.

The weather forecast for the second day of the reenactment was calling for better weather and I figured I'd be able to get more shooting time. Murphy's Law had other plans and they weren't good. The second day of the reenactment the spectator area was moved to the rear of the battlefield. The battle that day started on the other side of the property behind a dense tree line. The reenactors fought the first half of the battle out of sight of the spectators. Then the two sides moved to the battlefield to continue the fight.
The Confederates quickly advanced on the retreating Union soldiers and fought the second half of the battle at the end of the battlefield opposite the spectator area. I'm not sure why this was done this way, but it was disappointing as a spectator. It was like going to a football game and the first half of the game was played in the parking lot while the fans were in the stadium. Then during the second half of the game, all the fans were sitting in one endzone while the teams played the rest of the game from the opposite 20 yard line. After that you probably wouldn't go to watch another football game.

I was able to come away with some photos from those two days, but again it had to be disappointing for the people who were attending for the first time or those like myself who knew that in previous years the spectator areas had a much better vantage point. Despite the rain on the first day and the terrible point of view the second day, I enjoyed shooting this event as always. Click the link to view the Battle of Big Bethel photos and you can also view previous reenactments here.