WHEELING, W.Va. -- On Thursday, Kay Gotschall of Carrollton, Ohio, packed up a Civil War diary she found at an auction and drove to the Old Custom House, West Virginia's Independence Hall.
The diary belonged to Thomas Brady of Wheeling, who was a second lieutenant in a West Virginia infantry unit. Brady was in Winchester, Va., in 1863. He recorded in his diary marching 15 miles to Hampshire County on March 17 to "vote for the state."
Brady was killed by a sharpshooter on June 13, 1863.
"He never got to see the new state," said Gotschall, so she brought his diary, put on her period hoop dress and joined about 400 people Thursday afternoon to mark the occasion
Wheeling church bells tolled at 1 p.m. -- just as they did on June 20, 1863.
Cannon fire rattled downtown windows periodically throughout Thursday afternoon as re-enactors from the 19th Ohio artillery unit from Salem, Ohio loaded and fired two guns -- a smooth bore Mountain Howitzer, a smaller gun for maneuvering in tight places, and a 3-inch Parrott rifled cannon.
Nearby, re-enactors of the first West Virginia infantry, Company A, also known as the Rough and Ready Rifles, set up a command tent.
Throughout the afternoon, they answered questions, modeled period-correct woolen uniforms and administered loyalty oaths, which citizens needed to get passports to move about during the Civil War.
The unit was the first one formed in West Virginia when President Abraham Lincoln put out a call for volunteers, said Lieut. Col. Kevin Skaggs. The original unit was four people out of Wheeling's fourth ward.
One story is that the unit formed out of a tavern, thus the "rough and ready" nickname.
Company B came out of Wheeling's nail factory and were known as the Iron Guards, said Skaggs, a Charleston resident. He took off from his job as an electrical engineer at American Electric Power to attend the celebration in Wheeling.
Skaggs, who grew up in Fayette County, has always been interested in history. "Where I grew up, we had an amazing amount of Civil War history. We played Army in actual Civil War trenches."