War on …
A civil war re-enactment held near Escondida every year is a “positive, family oriented event,” says organizer Charles Mandeville.
The Battles for Socorro Committee is hard at work bringing together the next installment of “The Battle of Valverde” on Feb. 23.
Mandeville said at first, in light of controversy generated in 2012 around the event, he was not going to head up the event again. But he has had so many calls and so much interest, the battle will proceed.
The event draws re-enactors from across the country to Socorro County to commemorate one of the most significant battles of the Civil War taking place in the West.
This year is the 16th for the reenactment and the 151st since the Civil War. The Battle of Valverde took place Feb. 21, 1862.
“We try to be as authentic and accurate as we can be,” Mandeville said. “We continue on because we know what the truth is.”
Mandeville said he has been doing his own research on the Civil War as he reads first person accounts and digs up census records.
“I have a very different view (from) what was taught in school,” he said.
Although Mandeville often portrays those on the Confederate side, he is proud of his own ancestry, too.
“My ancestor was a Union Army sergeant in the Army from Indiana,” he said. Re-enactors are generally prepared to change sides in any given battle, he added. If the balance of participants is off, people are willing to change uniform and participate where they are most needed. Mandeville has several outfits from both Confederate and Union factions.
In general those who re-enact the Civil War are meticulous in their attention to detail, even the battle training and cavalry, he said. They train by the original guidelines set forth in the Civil War; that way, no matter who the commander is, the re-enactors know what to do and where they should be.
Surrounding the battle reenactment itself, a flurry of related events takes place. Fandangos are held at the campsites, and a fashion show and a ladies tea are featured at the Opera House in Socorro.
A prelude to the event takes place on Robert E. Lee’s birthday, Jan. 19, Mandeville said. Re-enactors from Albuquerque and Las Cruces will be on hand for that event.
The event has some controversy around it because the city of Socorro has withdrawn the funding it once provided.
Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhaskar said the city is unable to financially back the event because tourism dollars are based on the lodgers’ tax and the event does not bring enough business to city hotels to generate the funds.
Most of the visiting participants in the event stay in tents and compounds near the Escondida location of the reenactment.
“The city is not financially supporting it because we don’t find it’s any benefit as far as the lodgers’ tax is concerned,” Bhaskar said.
The choice to decline funding of events is not unusual.
“We have declined other funding requests because they are not germane to the lodgers’ tax revenue,” Bhaskar said. “But we would not deprive them of their rights to have their parade in the city; the parade is welcome.”
The Battles for Socorro Committee is welcome to fill out a parade permit and hold itsmarch in town as it has done in previous years, he said.
“We are not keeping them from parading,” he said. “We are not keeping them from doing anything we would let any other organization do.”