This one is particularly horrifying, if for no other reason than it is going terribly underreported in the mainstream press.
A pipe bomb was found at the reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek this weekend. From Susan Fries Hathway with the Virginia Flaggers who was present at the event:
Message received from a friend, who talked to a State Trooper:
“The bomb was real. The lady who picked it up should be dead. The mercury switch did not activate. God looked after us this weekend. We will win this. We will overcome!! We will come back ten fold. We are not afraid!!”
For those not familiar with your run of the mill pipe bomb, there are three components to the mechanism: timer, detonator, and either a battery of a fuse. In this instance, the mercury switch is designed as an anti-tampering device. If you move it just enough, the mercury within a small tube touches the circuit and boom — someone has a bad day.
Sometimes the timer is chemically based; sometimes it is electronic (either using a small battery or a cell phone; occasionally a curling iron has been used). Not all fuses are wires either… sometimes they are good old fashioned fuses just like you’d see on the Fourth of July.
The trick to a pipe bomb is to make sure it goes off in just such a way as to increase casualties. Too much explosive, and it creates a loud boom. Too little and it becomes a firecracker. Just enough ball bearings or nails attached to it? This is the point of a pipe bomb, and it is why it is favored by attention-seeking organizations and anarchists for about 150 years or more.
Which narrows down the motive immensely.
NBC 12 in Richmond has perhaps the most informative commentary on the thwarted pipe bomb attack:
The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office says someone found the item at the Cedar Creek & Belle Grove National Historical Park around 4 p.m. Saturday. The device was found during an annual reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek.
Officers evacuated the immediate area until the device was rendered safe by Virginia State Police. No one was harmed.
WRIC 8 simply repeats the press statement, excluding that the FBI was investigating the matter and labeling the pipe bomb as a mere device. WTVR 6 includes the FBI as interested in the investigation — but also terms the pipe bomb as a “device”.
The best article so far involves an interview from Portland’s WCSH who interviewed a group of Maine re-enactors:
“They had to wait for the bomb squad to show up and dismantle it,” said Pierce. “A lot of us in the Union camp are unhappy because we feel that we shouldn’t be forced away from doing our hobby and dedicating our hobby to the lives of all Civil War veterans that died for this country.”
He said the ride from the Union camp to Sutler’s Row is about one mile.
Pierce said he was not scared when he found out that it was likely a bomb.
“It’s going top take a little bit more than that to scare any of the Union or Confederate re-enacters. We’re not easily shaken and we’re not going to be threatened and we’re going to keep on doing this to honor all veterans,” said Pierce.
Given that many Civil War re-enactors tend to “cross dress” — shorthand for portraying the soldiers of both sides — such a threat of violence not only isn’t going to deter these historians one bit, but in many ways emboldens both the sympathies and the realities of the national debate of Confederate memorials.
UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that the re-enactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek went along as planned despite the ominous threat of terrorism after the discovery of a pipe bomb on Saturday:
“U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” the reenactors began shouting, underscoring not just their sense of patriotism but the umbrage many felt at having their hobby dragged into the national debate over race and Confederate-era symbolism.
“We wanted to send a message,” said Keith MacGregor, 56, from Lebanon, Pa., who was playing the role of a Union infantry captain for the reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek, held not far from here. “We wanted to show the U.S. that we aren’t going to let some terrorist, or some nut, stop the event. I was never prouder of people in our hobby.”
If there is any question that the pipe bomb was the product of a terrorist threat, the Washington Post drops several clues that the motives were indeed linked to the national debate over Confederate memorials:
Last week, organizers of the Cedar Creek event posted a warning on the group’s website.
“We would like to make everyone aware that the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation has received a letter threatening bodily harm to attendants of this event,” the foundation said in the statement. “With this in mind security has been increased and we ask that everyone work with us for a safe and enjoyable event.”
Antifa threats apparently found their mark, as Confederate re-enactors simply “switched sides” and portrayed themselves as Union soldiers:
“It’s really sad that it’s gotten to this point where you have organizations or people who are threatening violence,” said Robert Bailey, 62, a retired D.C. police officer who said he has been coming to the Cedar Creek reenactments for 21 years.
Bailey said he had heard the letter sent to the foundation threatened that excrement would be thrown or weapons fired at the reenactors.
“I understand why people want to bring the statues down, why they want to get rid of the flag,” he said, watching the battle from the rear because of a heart attack a year ago, a huge feather drooping from his officer’s cap. “But even if you do . . . the history is still there.”
Of course, the slim chance that this was a self-inflicted effort — Confederate sympathizers drop an inert pipe bomb in a field? — is there. The Virginia State Police have an investigation to perform…
…but the threats and the dots aren’t terribly hard to connect. Given the political element, it certainly meets the definition for domestic terrorism — and if it is, those responsible should be treated as such.
Beyond that, one can only thank God that the pipe bomb was indeed a dud.