Fort Branch Christmas set for Saturday evening

Published 9:00 am Thursday, December 2, 2010

Staff Writer

HAMILTON — Fort Branch will hold a candlelight tour of recreated Christmas scenes for a Civil War Christmas re-enactment Saturday evening.
Frank Dew, Fort Branch museum curator and chairman of the Battlefield Commission that oversees Fort Branch, said that Fort Branch has a theme every Christmas for visitors.
“Last year, we did a re-enactment of a Yankee soldier who was really a Confederate spy,” Dew said. “It’s really a ‘play’ we put on every Christmas for spectators to come and see.
“Re-enactors will be dressed in period costumes, and spectators will be guided through the fort, as we will stop at different scenes depicting a Civil War soldier’s life along the fort’s trail.”
According to Dew, the year before last, the re-enactors put on a play in which spectators could see the stages of a Confederate soldier enlisting in the army, all the way through to his final day.
“It was a 20-minute touring, basically,” Dew said. “People got to see how he had to leave his sweetheart and regretted leaving her.”
Dew said the soldier thought he would be away from his fiancee for just a short time, but he was away from her for nearly three years. The performance ended as the two saw each other at the same camp he was stationed at, which happened to be his last duty station.
“So, they were able to be together after all, after nearly three years of just communicating through letters,” Dew said. “Now, even though it’s just a touring play, as we walk through the woods and the narrator tells the story, it’s so interesting to see and experience as you hear the gunfire and bombs going off. You really get a feel of what it’s like to live in those times, even if it’s only for 20 minutes.”
Dew said the tour ends at a campfire where spectators may sit by the fire, sing Christmas carols and experience the camaraderie as soldiers did before.
“It’s a great thing to do and bring your family to as we’ll celebrate Christmas at Fort Branch, Civil War style,” Dew said. “And we will have light refreshments that we’ll be serving as well.”
The Fort Branch Christmas event is free to the public. Dew said donations are always welcome as they go to help with the upkeep of the Civil War site.
Fort Branch is a Confederate fort located two miles south of Hamilton, which overlooks the Roanoke River.
“It served as a key lookout during the Civil War,” Dew said. “Soldiers stationed at Fort Branch also protected the building site of the CSS Albemarle ironclad upstream, as well as the railroad bridge at Weldon, which was considered the lifeline of the Confederacy.”
The Civil War Christmas at Fort Branch begins at 7 p.m. Saturday. Visitors should dress warmly. They are encouraged to bring flashlights to help guide their way.
“It’s a great time for visitors to experience Fort Branch and enjoy refreshments while sharing an interest in history and caroling around the campfire,” Dew said.
For more information about the event, visit the Fort Branch website at or call the Martin County Travel and Tourism office at 252-792-6605.