August 27, 2011

Civil War Days, Virginia City, Nevada

The historic mining camp of Virginia City, Nevada celebrates the Civil War every Labor Day weekend. The sesquicentennial of the beginning of the Civil War has prompted a fuller offering of Civil War-related events September 2 through 5, 2011.  Visitors may view re-enactors at field camps, parades, battle demonstrations, train hold-ups, a Victorian high tea, Victorian dance, and this year, the staged reading of the epic Stephen Vincent Benet poem, John Brown's Body with professional cast. The weekend provides fine family fare that educates as well as entertains. The historical background to Civil War events, as well as the reality of the soldier's life, create a well-rounded vision of this defining moment in American history. 


The Comstock Civil War re-enactors are the only regional group to use cannons in their staged battles and have partnered with the Virginia and Truckee Railroad to create a hold-up and ensuing battle with Confederate and Union troops. Guests can watch from the train (Adults $22; Children $10) or on the siding. Many events are free.


The Pulitzer-prize winning poem, John Brown's Body will be presented twice during the weekend events; once Friday evening, 7:30 p.m., and a 2:00 p.m. Saturday matinee. More than any other single event of the Civil War, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859, ignited passions that lead to bloodshed. John Brown's goal, to arm the slaves to take up a revolt against plantation owners, created such fear in Southerners that all talk of compromise ended.


John Brown's Body, the epic poem by Stephen Vincent Benet, comes to life as a theatrical presentation at the Silverland Hotel theater, 100 North E Street in Virginia City.  The 15,000 line poem has been adapted into a 70-minute presentation with a musical score and will include a post-show question and answer session with the cast.


John Brown's Body is an ambitious re-telling of the American Civil War that shines a light on the human side of it all--the heartbreak and the joys of those living through it.  It also entertains the question as to whether John Brown, the man who tried to start the civil war about a year and a half before it actually erupted, was a hero of black freedom or a bloodthirsty terrorist.


In his poem, Benet introduces fictional characters from the North and South and places them in this turbulent time period alongside real-life characters like President Lincoln and John Brown himself.  Published in 1928, over 100,000 copies of John Brown's Body were sold within a few months of its release.  The following year it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.


Actor Charles Laughton was partly responsible for an adaptation that he directed on Broadway in 1953. That three-person dramatic reading featured Tyrone Power, Judith Anderson, and Raymond Massey.  The version playing the Silverland Hotel theater features actors Andy and Anita Harmon and Jeanette Knight.  The trio performed the same production last year to rave reviews.


Performances of John Brown's Body take place on Friday, Sept. 2 at 7:30 and Saturday, Sept. 3 at 2:00.  The $15.00 ticket price includes one drink.  The production is made possible by support from the B Street House Bed and Breakfast as well as the Silverland Hotel.  For reservations or more information, call the Silverland at (775) 847-4484. This presentation is suitable for older children through adult. Visit for more information.



Friday September 2

Encampments at Miners Park 9 to 4:00 p.m.

John Brown's Body, Silverland Hotel theater 7:30 p.m.


Saturday, September 3

Encampments at Miners Park 9 to 4:00 p.m.

Full pancake breakfast Miners Park $3 per person

First train battle 11:20 a.m.

Victorian High Tea at upstairs Delta Saloon 1:00 p.m.

John Brown's Body Silverland Hotel theater 2:00 p.m.

Second train battle, 7:30 p.m.


Sunday, September 4

Encampments at Miners Park 9 to 4:00 p.m.

Traditional Civil War Church Service 9:00 a.m. Miner's Park

First train battle 11:20 a.m.

Second train battle 3:00 p.m.

No host bar-b-que Delta Saloon parking lot 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Victorian Dance in Delta Parking lot, weather permitting, 7:30 p.m.


Monday, September 5

Encampments Miners Park 9 to 4:00 p.m.

Parade on "C" Street 12:00 p.m.

Street battle on "C" Street 12:30 p.m.

Train battle 3:00 p.m.