CROSS KEYS — A story from the final days of the Civil War will be reenacted during Living History Event VI at the Cross Keys House in April.
For the past six years, the Union County Historical Society has sponsored the Living History Events which includes a reenactment of Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ visit to the Cross Keys House on April 30, 1865. Davis, four members of his cabinet including Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin, and a large of contingent of Confederate cavalry arrived at the house at lunchtime. They were received by Mary Ann Bobo Whitmire Davis, the owner of the house, who invited Davis and his cabinet members in to the house to have lunch with her. After dining, Davis and his party continued their flight south where, in Abbeville, they held the final meeting of the Confederate cabinet. Davis would be captured by federal troops in Georgia, bringing an effective end to the Confederate government.
Union County Museum Director Ola Jean Kelly said Wednesday that the Living History Events began after the historical society acquired the Cross Keys House.
“The reenactment was determined to be a way to celebrate the history of the house,” Kelly said. “It was so successful that it has continued and grown from year to year.”
Living History Event V in 2012 attracted a total of 90 reenactors including two teenage girls.
“On School Day these two girls, along with their mother, taught the Virginia Reel (a popular dance of the era) and social customs to the eighth grade students attending School Day,” Kelly said. “On Saturday and Sunday, these two young ladies hid their long hair under a cap, put soot on their faces and became ‘powder monkeys’ for the cannons. They assisted the cannoneers.”
Roy and Marie McRorie will be among the reenactors participating in Living History Event VI. The McRorie’s, along with Kelly and Gene Smith, attended Tuesday’s meeting of the Union Rotary Club in Civil War era attire. Roy McRorie is a member of the “Lee’s Command and Staff” reenactment group where he plays the part of Gen. A.P. Hill, commander of the Third Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia under Gen. Robert E. Lee. McRorie wore the uniform he wears as A.P. Hill while his wife wore the dress she wears as Hill’s wife, Dolly. Gene Smith was Mrs. Hill’s lady in waiting, Molly, and Kelly was also dressed a southern woman of the era.
McRorie addressed the club about Hill who he said did not get along with any of his fellow generals except for Lee. He said that Hill’s relationship with Gen. James Longstreet was so bad that the two were on the verge of fighting a duel and would have done so had Lee not stopped them.
In addition to his membership in the Lee’s Command and Staff reenactment group, McRorie is also a member of the 63rd North Carolina State Troops where he’s a corporal.
McRorie also discussed reenactment, pointing out that while in the field, reenactors may not have in their possession anything that Confederate soldiers could not have had in 1865. He also discussed how many reenactors, including himself, have amassed great collections of Civil War era items including firearms which they carry with them in the reenactments.
For the past three years, McRorie has participated in the reenactments at the Cross Keys House
McRorie said that his experience at the Cross Keys House during the Living History Events and those of his fellow reenactors taking part in the event has always been a good one.
“It is now the centerpiece of our yearly itinerary,” McRorie said. “It’s our favorite place and we always come back. We enjoy it most on Fridays when the kids come out. We have no trouble with the kids, they ask questions because they want to know.
“We’re fed better here than anywhere else,” he said. “Anything we ask to be done for us is done. We really do enjoy it.”
The Living History Events are three-day affairs that include a School Day on Friday in which eighth grade students studying South Carolina history come to the Cross Keys House for presentations that are not included on Saturday and Sunday. The main reenactment takes place on Saturday and Sunday and is open to the general public.
Living History Event V drew 1,000 tourists to the Cross Keys House on Saturday and Sunday.
Kelly said Living History Event VI, will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 28. School Day will be held Friday, April 26. She said this year’s event will be bigger than last year’s.
“We’ve already had a call from a military unit from Georgia asking to participate and we have a Native American and his wife who come each year from Michigan to participate and he participates in full war paint,” Kelly said. “We will have demonstrations by the military which will include infantry, artillery and cavalry. The bonnet maker is coming back, she’s a lady who makes bonnets and lets the visitors model them. There will be a field hospital, a dentist, a nurses station, blacksmith, a lecture on the flags of Civil War South Carolina, carvers and other presentations. We encourage everybody to bring a chair and there will be food to purchase.”
For more information about Living History Event VI and the Cross Keys House contact the Union County Museum at 429-5081. The museum is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. and on Saturday from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.