The Pamplin Historical Park held a wide range of festivities to celebrate the 240th birthday of our Union Monday.
The Pamplin Historical Park is a privately owned museum and historic landmark that operates without any federal or local funds. The park is a treasure in Dinwiddie, featuring Confederate Earthworks and a museum with a unique focus.
“A lot of museums focus on the stars of the era,” said Charle Swinford, Senior Marketing Specialist and Graphic Designer at the Pamplin Historical Park said. “We take a different approach. We focus on the every day soldiers.”
Visitors listen to audio on headsets that match the exhibits with a soldier’s experience. Each presentation is open ended, until the end of the tour, where visitors learn the fate of the soldier their headset is presenting.
The park and museums offer a wealth of knowledge to visitors, as well as scenic and often hands on experiences that are hard to shake. A mixture of artifacts including weapons, flags, uniforms, medicinal tools and original letters, with current technology that puts visitors in the line of fire and on ground shaken by incoming projectiles, lends to a truly unique experience resulting in a greater understanding of the day in the life of a Civil War soldier.
July 4th was one of four times throughout the year visitors can witness the firing of the Pamplin Historical Park’s 3” ordinance rifle. Tim Talbot led visitors in the Pledge of Allegiance and gave a speech about the true motivations and honor behind flags. The rifle was fired shortly after Tim’s speech, requiring three men to load and position what looks more like a large cannon.
“The rifle was typically a Union weapon, but the Confederates loved to capture those when they could,” Talbot said. “This is a reproduction piece. We just use it for demonstration purposes, of course. We shoot it off on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, special occasions like this. Often on our anniversary, April 2, we will fire the rifle. It is a blank shot, we wrap black powder in tin foil, it keeps it from disintegrating.”
Tim thanked all in attendance and started his speech thusly.
“When one is asked for things they associate with the 4th of July, many possibilities may spring to mind: picnics, parades, fireworks, just to name a few,” Talbot said. “If asking a history enthusiast, they may be period specific, and come up with historical connection to the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson, or the Declaration of Independence. Regardless of personal interest or viewpoint, most people also associate the 4th of July with flags.”
Talbot elaborated on the meaning attached to flags, saying they are after all symbols. Flags accomplish so many things, and some flags were designed with specific applications in mind, as Talbot said during the Civil War flags served any number utilitarian purposes.
“In Civil War battle situations, flags served as a guide to keep company and regimental lines strait, as well as a rallying point when formations became disconnected or disjointed, and directed the movement of the regiment,” Talbot said. “Often was heard the cry: “Guide on the Colors!,” during Civil War battles. Soldiers gathered around the colors to regroup, make an attack, or when necessary, retreat.”
Talbot closed his speech with tales of stealing enemy flags at any cost. Defense of the flag is the most serious business there is, and many lives were lost in this effort during the Civil War. Talbot said the defense of the American Flag was rewarded with the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Civil War. One might argue that the medal is awarded for the exact same reasons today when considering the symbolism attached to the flag.
Tim is just one of many professionals at the Pamplin Historic Park. Travis Wakeman is an energetic and knowledgeable Historic Interpretor/Educator at Pamplin. Travis’ presentation on rations, equipment and discipline, for soldiers serving on either side of the Civil War, was colorful, smart and enthusiastic, all-the-while Travis maintained a down to earth connection with his audience. He is certainly a master of his craft, and will celebrate 2 years of service in January.
Travis earned B.A. in History with an American Concentration from Washington University in 2014. He has a few part time jobs in addition to playing a major role at Pamplin. He has worked all over in the field through internships and consulting positions. He has even worked in Quantico to further develop ethics.
“I really got into History in Spotsylvania,” Travis said. “A lot of people don’t realize it’s the bloodiest county. It really just passes people by.”
Travis spends about two hours each day trying to learn something about the past, whether it is through reading or conversing with his colleagues. He finds this knowledge is what gives him an edge. His pageantry is the result of a combination of interests, and it is no surprise that acting is among them, but more than anything Travis looks to establish a dialogue with his audience.
“People want to have a conversation with a genuine person,” Travis said. “I think that is one of the things that Pamplin is doing so well. I make an effort to listen to my audience. I gauge what I am talking about based on their reactions.”
It shows. Travis is proud to work with everyone at the Pamplin Historical Park. He said that nobody there is coming in trying to catch a paycheck.
“I always try to leave people with something to consider,” Travis said.
The history is one thing visitors take with them when they leave Pamplin, but Travis likes to leave off with quotes.
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does Rhyme – Mark Twain,” Travis said. “Another one I like to leave people with is a ‘A People that doesn’t understand their past will never understand theif future.’”
The Pamplin Historic Park holds events like the 4th of July celebration on significant dates throughout the year, notably those dates associated with national holidays. April 2, the anniversary of the Pamplin Historic Park, goes above and beyond these celebrations. Anniversaries at the Pamplin Historic Park draw a larger number of reenactors, allowing visitors to witness a battle as it would have occurred on the Pamplin grounds. The park is open daily from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. There are regularly held special events, the next event is July 16, titled The Last Ride of A.P. Hill.
Featured Photo: Ben May/DM
A Civil War demonstration held at the Pamplin Historical Park last week.