Company H during the Reenacting Years
The modern day version of Company H, 53rd Virginia, came into existence in July of 1990. Out of another reenacting unit called "Mahone's Brigade" came a small group of individuals that wanted to go in another direction. This group, which included present members Ronnie Durvin and Wingate Futrell, organized Company H, 53rd Virginia, into a brand new reenacting unit. The very first flag of the unit was made by Wingate, and saw action immediately. In August of 1990, the Mattaponi Guards took part in their first event as a unit, in a parade at Walkerton, VA. The first of many parades attended by Company H. It was there that the long history of today's unit began it's reenacting story.
Just like today, Company H took part in both small and large scale events in the early days. For instance, in 1991, the unit held a very small event at the Brigg's House in Emporia, reenacting the Hicksford Raid of 1864. A couple months later, in July of that same year, they made the first trip as a unit to Gettysburg, which is always a big scale event.
Most of the original unit at Gettysburg, 1991
After winning 1st place for specialty units in the "Loyalty Days" parade of Mechanicsville, Va, in May 1992, Company H started what became an annual event for many years to come. For the next decade, Company H attended and/or hosted an event at Stratford Hall, birthplace of Robert E. Lee. This event, which was usually held in June, always had one thing which could be counted on: rain. It became a tradition. Sometimes it would be more than rain, as some members could relate. In June of 1994, Captain Durvin, Corporal (at that time) Mike Blevins, and Troy Fallin of the 13th VA had all arrived at Stratford early, in the midst of a strom. As the three conversed, lightning struck an oak tree less than 50 yards away, bringing it crashing to the ground. These three veterans were not shaken, and continued to converse and hydrate their bodies with special drink, in the face of danger. Only those with harden nerves such as these are ready to lead men into battle. Besides the rain, Stratford Hall became an annual event close to the units heart for many years.
Some other events that the unit began going to in those early days, which became annual events for years to come, included the parade in Montross, VA; the October event at Cedar Creek; in November, the reenactment at Fort Branch, N.C.; and also down at Endview, near Newport News, VA. For better or worse, only Cedar Creek is still on the annual schedule as of 2007. Maybe for the better when it comes to Fort Branch, as Ronnie may agree. During the 1995 event, Ronnie broke his leg while battling against Federal troops. Ronnie thankfully recovered quickly and returned to combat within months, making this just another example of why Mr. Durvin is the ultimate reenactor.
There were many great events during the 1990s. Some of the best all-around events are usually the smaller ones, such as at Endview. Large events are usually logistical nightmares, with unorganized battle scenarios. There were some high notes for large events, such as the 135th Gettysburg in 1998. An example of a large event that was not very popular, and a logistical nightmare, was the Wilderness event in 1996. Like many things though, reenacting can be what each person makes of it themselves.
As the 1990s closed, a new century opened with more adventures for the members of the 53rd Virginia, Company H.
In the year 2000, the 53rd took part in several events, such as the Battle of Chancellorsville at Fort Pickett, VA, and the annual event at Fort Branch, in N.C.
The 53rd spent much of the year preparing for its unit-sponsored event at Shirley Plantation in September. For a number of years Shirley was a regular event for the 53rd. Lots of coordination and work weekends took place throughout the year.
In 2001 members of the 53rd attended Averasboro, NC (March), "School of the Soldier" at Berkeley Plantation (March 30-April 1), a unit work day at Shirley (April 22), the living history event at Stratford Hall (June 1-3), Gettysburg (July 6-8), Manassas (August 3-5), Shirley Plantation (September 28-30), Cedar Creek (October 19-21), Fort Branch (November 2-4), and Endview Plantation (December 8-9).
-During the Berkeley event in April, Brevet Corporal Richard Oates demonstrated his now famous "Beaverdam Lope" up a hill during regimental drill, covering ground quicker than all his comrades.
-Tom Jones was given the title of "Chief Woodsplitter" for his excellent job at the Shirley Plantation work days.
-At the New Market event in May, the 53rd found itself camped so close to Interstate 81 (the highway splits the historic battlefield) that the company fly was tied to the fence next to the road. Tractor-trailers were blowing their horns at the Confederate battle flags day and night.
-The late Private Jerry Draper attended his first event at First Manassas. This event was a very hot summer affair, with nearly 200 reenactors being treated for heat related issues.
-During 2001 members of the unit were able to participate as extras in the filming of the movie "Gods and Generals".
-The Shirley Plantation event in late September, organized and managed by the 53rd VA, was a success. The terrorist attacks of September 11th still loomed large over every day life.
-2001 was very dry, and by November all outside fires were banned. At Fort Branch, Company H jokingly placed their lanterns in a group on the ground to simulate camp fires for the weekend. Luckily that event was unseasonably warm, so fires were not needed for warmth.
-The 53rd donated $1,000 to the Red Cross following the September 11th attacks.
Chronological History of the Elected Unit Officer positions:
Captain: Ronnie Durvin, July 1990-Feb 1995, Dane Deleppo, Feb 1995-Feb 1998, Michael Blevins, Feb 1998-Feb 2007, Ronnie Durvin, Feb 2007-Jan 2010, Richard Oates, Jan 2010-Jan 2013, Sheldon Bell, Jan 2013-Present
1st Sgt: Bill McCallister, July 1990-June 1992(resigned), Wingate Futrell, June 1992-Feb 1993, Dane Deleppo, Feb 1993-Feb 1995, Michael Blevins, Feb 1995-Feb 1998, Sheldon Bell, Feb 1998-Feb 2003, Ronnie Durvin, Feb 2003-Feb 2007, Richard Oates, Feb 2007-Jan 2010, Michael Spencer Sr., Jan 2010-Jan 2012, Sheldon Bell, Jan 2012-Jan 2013, Gary Parisi, Jan 2013-Present
2nd Sgt: Terry Jones, Feb 2002-Feb 2003, Michael Spencer Sr., Feb 2008-Jan 2010, Michael Spencer Jr., Jan 2010-Jan 2012, Gary Parisi, Jan 2012-Jan 2013, Brad Johnson, Jan 2013-Jan 2016, James Whitehead, Jan 2016-Present
Corporal: Chris Throckmorton, July 1990-Feb 1991, Wingate Futrell, Feb 1991-June 1992, Dane Deleppo, June 1992-Feb 1993, Wingate Futrell, Feb 1993-Feb 1994, Michael Blevins, Feb 1994-Feb 1995, Rusty Briley, Feb 1995-Feb 1996, Bob Mitchell, Feb 1996-Feb 1997, Sheldon Bell, Feb 1997-Feb 1998, Terry Jones(also 2nd Sgt for a time), Feb 1998-Feb 2002, Mike Beck, Feb 2002-Feb 2003, Richard Oates, Feb 2003-Feb 2007, Michael Spencer Sr., Feb 2007-Feb 2008, Michael Spencer Jr., Feb 2008-Jan 2010, Gary Parisi, Jan 2010-Jan 2012, Currently Vacant (Jan 2012-Present)
Treasurer: Debby Whitby, Feb 1991-Feb 1993, Carol Deleppo, Feb 1993-Feb 1998, Mark Bryant, Feb 1998-Feb 2002, Pattie Futrell, Feb 2002-Feb 2006, Cheryl Spencer, Feb 2006-Jan 2012, Brad Johnson, Jan 2012-Jan 2016, Katie Whitehead, Jan 2016-Present
Secretary: Carol Deleppo, Feb 1992-Feb 1998, Mike Beck, Feb 1998-Feb 2001, Tom Jones, Feb 2001-Feb 2003, Michael Spencer Sr., Feb 2003-Feb 2007, Michael Blevins, Feb 2007-Jan 2011, Tom Jones, Jan 2011-Jan 2012, Robert Powers, Jan 2012-Jan 2016, Tom Jones, Jan 2016-Present
Ordinance Corporal: Wingate Futrell, Feb 2002-Feb 2007, Alvin Slaughter, Feb 2007-Jan 2012, Bob Bishop, Jan 2012-Present