In case you haven’t noticed, the Civil War is not over. Last weekend, the Yanks and the Rebs were back brawling it up once again at Escondida for the annual Commemoration of the Battle of Valverde on the east bank of the Rio Grande. Reenactors from around the state turned out, and spectators watched the maneuvers and ruckus from the Escondida Bridge railing.

They say a majority of us can lay claim to having ancestors who were involved in that most deadly of all American wars, or as the lah-dee-dah gentrified Southern folks would put it, the “Recent Unpleasantness.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Socorro’s connection with that dark chapter of American history, it was in February of 1862 when the Confederate 5th Regiment of Texas Mounted Volunteers formed a battle line and headed for Fort Craig, which was garrisoned eight years prior to protect settlers and homesteaders from Apache and Navajo raids. The U.S. Army got wind of them and stationed a battery of guns and howitzers outside the walls of Fort Craig. Five days later, the two armies clashed in the Battle of Valverde, which ended in a tactical victory for the Confederacy, but they failed to capture Fort Craig.

Moving north, the Texans summarily overcame Socorro defenders (even firing a cannon shot that passed over San Miguel Church) and established a makeshift hospital for their wounded at the present site of Cooney’s Liquors. They went on to be defeated at Glorieta Pass, but the bodies of a couple of dozen Confederates who died in the fracas were left behind, and legend holds they were buried in a modest cemetery in the vicinity of Peralta between Blue Canyon Road and Arroyo Drive.

The thing is, when the city went to do some curb and gutter work on Peralta in 2004, I went up there to get a photo of the work for the Mountain Mail but wound up taking pictures of human finger bones and rotted fabric scattered along the east side of the street near the new curbing. I wrote an article and remember the state archaeologist looking into it. It also came up a couple of times at city council meetings, but I never heard anything more about it until 2008, when part of a skull and a piece of a casket appeared in the same area around the time city workers were laying a gas line. I have no idea if those remains remain, but further up Blue Canyon in the sprawling city cemetery, there’s a monument recollecting Confederates killed at the Battle of Valverde.

But I digress.

The Valverde reenactment aside, armchair war-historian types have been reenacting one Civil War battle or another since forever. In fact, even while that war was still going on Northern communities were having “sham battles” in which their local regiments were victorious.

Reenactors I’ve talked with say it gives them an appreciation for what it was like back then, as well as paying respect to those who volunteered and fought.
Other than the Civil War, or possibly the War of Independence, I think no one has ever wanted to recreate other battles, although I hear there’s a reenactment of D-Day on a Lake Erie beach in Ohio.

I guess it’s hard to come up with something to reenact outside of armed conflict, but what about the war between men and women? Does anyone remember the Battle of the Sexes? Is that still a thing?

In my lifetime, it came to the fore in the late Sixties, that period of bra-burning and burgeoning Equal Rights Amendment demonstrations. The era of free love and no-fault divorce. It gave a lot of guys the heebie-jeebies in those male-chauvinist days when we men slowly got it into our thick monkey skulls that women were our equals in society, like a national-scale version of a marriage. Sort of.

For some reason at this point, I am reminded of the musical Annie Get Your Gun where Annie Oakley sings to her fiancée, “Anything You Can Do I Can Do BETTER.”

In the end, I figured equal rights for women was bound to happen because, well, you know … women are wiser. I learned this from James Thurber, who spent his whole life both awed and confused by women. I was introduced to the “war between men and women” before I understood the ramifications, around the age of 14 when I read the book The Thurber Carnival. In 1972, a comedy starring Jack Lemmon about Thurber and the abovementioned tongue-in-cheek “war” hit movie theaters.

Thurber was possibly channeling Aristophanes when he wrote: “Women are wiser than men because they know less and understand more.” That’s as close a compliment as you’ll get from Thurber, I guess, but then he added, “I think that maybe if women and children were in charge, we’d get somewhere.”

Heck, I’m wondering if the human race has women in it to keep us men from killing each other off altogether.