Now they're after Civil War re-enactors
Civil War re-enactors replaying the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia on Saturday went ahead with their demonstration despite the group organizing the event receiving a letter threatening "bodily harm" to anyone who participated.
The battlefield was temporarily cleared on Saturday when a "suspicious device" – possibly a pipe bomb – was discovered. The FBI is investigating.
"We wanted to send a message," said Keith MacGregor, 56, from Lebanon, Pa., who was playing the role of a Union infantry captain for the reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek, held not far from here. "We wanted to show the U.S. that we aren't going to let some terrorist, or some nut, stop the event. I was never prouder of people in our hobby."
Before and after the minute-long "U.S.A." chant, the two sides who acted out the battle came together and thanked each other for coming – and for staying. "The Star-Spangled Banner" was played and sung. So was "Dixie."
"You did not see any reenactors in Charlottesville," said Confederate reenactor Terry Shelton, referring to the gathering of white supremacists in the Virginia city in August. The event turned violent and led to three deaths.
The public was not allowed onto the battlefield or into the reenactor camps Sunday, but could watch the battle from a distance.
Local and federal law enforcement officials declined Sunday to describe the "suspicious item" found at the battlefield here about 4 p.m. Saturday, which prompted law enforcement to evacuate the immediate area. Several reenactors said they were told it looked like a pipe bomb.
In a statement Sunday, the FBI said that "the device was located during an annual reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek. No persons were harmed and the device was rendered safe by the Virginia State Police."
Dee Rybiski, an FBI spokeswoman, said Sunday that the bureau "was not elaborating on the device."
The FBI is investigating the incident, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Virginia State Police; the Frederick County Sheriff's Office; and the Middletown Police Department.
The battle reenacted Sunday took place on Oct. 19, 1864, and was a Union victory.
Re-enactors play a vital role in preserving American heritage and specifically Civil War battlefields that have been under assault for decades by developers. Most battlefields have shrunk considerably, especially in the east, where towns and cities have grown up around what was formerly farmland and forest. Re-enactor groups fight for the land upon which American blood was shed
Beyond the dedication of re-enactor groups to preserving our heritage, there is the meticulous and loving way they go about their "hobby." Every aspect of their kit – clothing, utensils, armament, and living conditions – are carefully and faithfully reproduced to come as close to authentic as humanly possible. Outfitting a Civil War re-enactor can cost a couple of thousand dollars if done right. Some re-enactors make their own clothing, trying to duplicate the process down to using sewing machines and other tools from that era.
And now they have become a target of the destroyers of American history.
When the Cedar Creek re-enactors sang both the National Anthem and Dixie, they weren't making a statement on race. They were, in the purest sense, re-enacting. They were doing exactly what Southern and Northern soldiers would have done. That these dedicated living history re-enactors would be threatened for trying to preserve an important part of our history shows that those who claim to be fighting racism are nothing more than ignorant terrorists, trying to destroy what they can't possibly understand.