Prineville resident Patricia Roberts attended the re-enactment of the Battle of Plymouth, a fight that took place 150 years ago

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Patricia Roberts poses for a photo with Ed Boots who was an ancestor of a soldier who was captured at the Battle of Plymouth and died at Andersonville Prison in Georgia.

Patricia Roberts walked the streets of Plymouth, N.C., taking in the sights and sounds of a small community on the brink of battle.

Union and Confederate soldiers would soon descend upon an open field near the Roanoke River, covered in tents and cannons as women in Victorian dress look on.

Fierce fighting would later lead to a Confederate win in which soldiers overtook Fort Comfort and claimed victory in a southern town that had long been under Union control.

Of course, Roberts knows that the Confederates may have won the battle, but later lost the war. The battle she watched was taking place in 2014, and was the latest in a long line of re-enactments that originated on her watch.

In 1990, the current Prineville resident was living in Plymouth, where she had just taken a job as the museum curator.

“They were just starting the historical society and when I got there, they opened the museum,” she recalls. “So, I ran the museum for them.”

Many small communities boast a particular claim to fame, and Plymouth is no different. The Battle of Plymouth has become their calling card, and as such, Roberts helped lead an effort to capitalize on it.

“That was the thing that the town wanted to focus on,” she said. “The whole point of focusing on that was to bring tourism into the town. It’s a big draw back east.”

Thus, Living History Weekend was born, and Roberts led the show.

“I was the contact person for everyone who was involved,” she said.

Roberts would call Plymouth home for the next five years, and dutifully worked behind the scenes many months of the year to ensure the weekend went as planned. The three-day event, held each April, launched Friday night as people came to the community and set up camp. Saturday typically featured music from the Civil War era, boat rides on the Roanoke River, and a torchlight tour after sunset.

“They take people by torchlight to different scenes throughout the town,” Roberts said.

Then on Sunday came the battle.

“What we do is re-enact part of the battle,” she said, noting that the entire battle took four days to conclude.

In 1995, Roberts left Plymouth and its Living History Weekend behind. She wouldn’t return until almost 20 years later, when she received an email inviting her back for a special version of the event.

“I went there because they were having their 150th anniversary of the Battle of Plymouth,” said Roberts.

This time, she enjoyed the weekend for the first time as a spectator, affording her the opportunity to see how the production had progressed in her absence.

“It’s interesting,” she said. “I have had little dreams every now and then about there. When you are so involved in putting something on, you kind of wonder about it.”

Living History Weekend did not disappoint. Not only had the number of re-enactment participants tripled to about 200, new features had joined the event. Among them was the mock Confederate Ram Albemarle ironclad.

“It was a ship that was covered in iron on the top,” Roberts said of the vessel, which was instrumental in helping the Confederates win the battle. “They actually built a mock ship that goes up and down the river.”

After living history in Plymouth once again, Roberts returned to Prineville having once again experienced an annual battle she helped launch more than 20 years ago.

“It was fun,” she said.

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