The following is a unique true love story. Friday
afternoon, June 7, 2000 found us at Pt. Lookout in the prison pen,
physically preparing the pen area by cutting grass, swatting mosquitoes,
staging the area for the next day’s prison performance and
our Lee’s Miserables practicing their lines for the skit.
To my left, I saw walking down the path, a man whom I did not know.
He asked where the blue/gray re-enactors were to assemble. The
event that he was talking about was to take place the following
weekend, not on this particular weekend, which is only geared toward
Confederate POWs. He was a very mild mannered, polite, easy talking
man who apologized for getting his weekends mixed up and said that
it was alright, he would go back home (it’s only over a hundred
miles away in Manassas, VA!) and just come back the following weekend.
With a thousand things on my mind and wondering how in the world
someone could possibly get the two events mixed up, I can’t
believe that I even had the manners to offer him to stay and re-enact
with our Lee’s Miserables...but thank goodness that I did!
He was Confederate-dressed with this cute little hat and he did
seem to possess the character that a Southerner would have displayed....
even though he did have that strange last name of Purschwitz.
Purschwitz proved to be a great Lee’s Miserable and was a
positive addition to our POW re-enactors. At the day’s conclusion,
I asked him how he made out and he stated that everything went
fine and he enjoyed fellowshipping with his inmate comrades. I
asked him if he’d be interested in joining us the following
year. He stated that he would! I sent him our follow up newsletter
and he was added to our list of performers for the following year.
never saw this gentleman again, until May 5th at Meadow Farm in
Richmond when we had a PLPOW/LM display table. His group was set
up behind us. I recognized him because of that hat! I went over
to him and asked, "Don’t I know you from somewhere,
like prison?" Yep, that was him. He introduced me to Vanessa
from Richmond, VA. Now, Vanessa had been at Pt. Lookout last year,
also. Only she was helping with the UDC display in our living history
area. Vanessa wandered on down to see the Lee’s Miserables’ prison
performance...the last one of the day.
She is now showing me a very
beautiful engagement ring. I took Dave’s hand in my left
hand and Vanessa’s engagement hand in my right....what a
great feeling!! Our first Pt. Lookout love story! I was ecstatic
for both of them. I was busying myself the rest of the day, spreading
the gossip to everyone I knew at this place, pointing to them and
saying that they had met at Pt. Lookout and are getting married!!
Ahh, if only they had chosen to get married at Pt. Lookout! I’d
love to organize a Pt. Lookout wedding. Hummm, wonder if I could
convince Vanessa’s son to do this someday when he becomes
Vanessa had a very informative Herb & Southern Home
Front display at this reenactment. I had already asked Dave if
he was going to be at Pt. Lookout and he said ‘Yes.’ I
got to thinking, well Dave is coming, Vanessa might as well come
on up and set up her display in our living history area. After
asking her, she stated that she would be delighted to come; however,
she would have to leave her station to attend Lee’s
Miserables Last Performance. I told her that I perfectly understood and she
could definitely do so! After the weekend’s event, I had
emailed Vanessa and told her that I appreciated her coming and
asked if she’d be interested in returning next year. She
stated that she would not only be there next year, but ALL the
years to follow...that Pt. Lookout has a special meaning to them!"
notes of interest...one of Vanessa’s children, Robert, will
be reenacting with Dave in the prison pen next June! Is this a
happy ending or what?! Also, upon discussing family, I was informed
by Vanessa that her ancestor, The Colonel is buried just one street
over from my house! So, everyday when I walk by the Colonel's grave,
I have to pay my respects from Vanessa.
Now, this has been "my
side" of this story. Let’s read what Vanessa has to
say what happened. Here’s the story in her words.....
of 2000, my UDC chapter announced that it was going to Pt. Lookout
for their annual event to hand out information on the UDC. Also,
wreathes would be laid at the memorial ceremony. I had never
been there and wanted to go very badly, as my uncle had been there
the end of the war. The Thursday before the event, I informed
them that I could not go due to lack of money. The chapter president
gave me some money so I could attend. Early Saturday morning,
three boys and I left Richmond for Pt. Lookout.
Dave Purschwitz, had been in Harrisburg, PA for
an event that had been a dud. He had heard that there was an event
at Pt. Lookout
and decided to attend it instead. There was another man who said
he would follow Dave to Pt. Lookout so they could do the event
together. However, about half way there, the other gentleman decided
that he did not want to go after all and tried to get Dave to go
back to Harrisburg with him. Dave wanted to go on to Pt. Lookout
and the other man turned around. Arriving very late, Dave slept
in his car. The next morning he found out that the event he came
for was the following weekend. He was invited to stay, however,
and be a part of Lee’s Miserables. Dave explained that he
did not have an ancestor that had been at Pt. Lookout and was told
that was OK, to join in any way.
Just 2 days before, on Thursday,
I had discovered another Confederate in my lineage that had some
odd information surrounding his burial. This young soldier cousin
had been wounded at 2nd Manassas and died shortly after. The
information that I found stated that he was buried in the Manassas
in Warrenton, VA. Now, I knew that either he was either buried
at the Warrenton Cemetery in Warrenton or the Manassas Cemetery
in Manassas; the Warrenton Cemetery in Manassas made no sense.
After a full day at Pt. Lookout, my 3 boys and
I, then ages 5, 7, & 9, walked up to see the final performance of Lee’s
Miserables at 4 PM. As the boys stood at the rope looking in, a
re-enactor approached the rope and asked if they had any questions.
No, they did not. He asked me if I had an ancestor who had been
at Pt. Lookout. I told him yes "But", I have another
ancestor that is puzzling me at the moment." I (for some unknown
reason) proceeded to tell him all about "Cousin George",
the 2nd Manassas soldier. The gentleman at the rope told me that
he could probably help me out since he worked at the Manassas Museum!
We introduced ourselves to one another and he gave me his email
address, explaining that it was his last name, Purschwitz, minus
a few letters. The performance was enjoyed and the boys and I left.
few days later, I emailed the Manassas Museum re-enactor with all
of the information that I had. As I wrote the email, I could not
remember the rest of this man’s last name. I spelled out
Purschwitz, but felt embarrassed if that should be wrong. Instead
of "Dear Mr. Purschwitz," I went with "Hello & Greetings
From Richmond, VA!" This seemed safer. I was honest and told
him that I couldn’t remember his last name. The reply came
right back "What do you mean you can’t remember my last
name! You take the alphabet, throw out a couple of letters, and
you’ve got it. My last name is Purschwitz, but please call
Dave found out that "Cousin George" had
been injured in the thigh and taken to Warrenton to a makeshift
hospital where he had died. He had been buried in the Warrenton
Cemetery in a section that held Manassas casualties. Once upon
a time, the school children had made crosses for all of the soldiers,
complete with name and regiment, intending to return them to their
families after the war was over. However, the Yankees had entered
Warrenton and during the winter used the crosses for firewood;
approximately 600 men were now nameless! When the war was over,
they were all put into a mass grave and a monument was erected
over them. Many, many years passed and by a stroke of good luck
combined with persistence, a man found out who the soldiers were!
There is now a wall with each and every man’s name and regiment
inscribed on it. The wall was dedicated several years ago. Dave
was there as part of the ceremony. Dave had honored my ancestor!
days later, I found yet another cousin who is buried there also.
I wrote back to Dave, in hopes that I wasn’t bothering him.
I started this email out by saying, "You are probably saying, "Oh,
no, it’s her again." But I have found another cousin
in the same cemetery. Could you possibly look him up too?" Dave
replied by saying, "OH, NO, IT’S HER AGAIN!" For
the first time in years, I laughed.
A couple of weeks went by and
Dave emailed me that he had found a book that listed all the Confederate
dead that are buried in the Washington, DC area, including my two
cousins. He also informed me of an event that the museum was having
for the anniversary of the battle toward the end of July. Would
I like for him to pick up a copy of the book? Yes! In the meantime,
my computer clock was way off the correct time. I sent an email
at midnight that came through to Dave as 3 AM. He made the comment
that I was up very late. His email came through from work as 4:30
AM. I said that he was a fine one to talk being at work that early!
My comment to him was, "Well, you are not much better going
to work at 4:30 in the morning.....your wife must not think much
of that." His reply was immediate. "I was at work at
7:30 AM and as for the wife, she left years ago." I had a
terrible marriage that was falling apart rapidly, but I now also
had a friend who had "been there and done that." Dave
became a friend who made me laugh and offered me the support that
Dave and I started comparing notes and it turned
out that we had been at all of the same events in the past few
months. Some were
quite small events. Except for one event, I was always in 21st
century dress and he was in 19th century. Now I would be going
to the Manassas event in 19th century clothing and he would be
in 21st century. I met him there, got the book, and we agreed to
keep in touch. About two weeks after the Manassas event, Dave came
to Richmond. The boys and I took him to the new NPS Civil War Visitors
Center. Several weeks later, Dave showed up in line right behind
me at the Civil War show in Richmond. We were becoming good friends.
He offered to go to a camping event with me, to help out. I liked
the idea and he joined me and the boys. He invited me to participate
in an upcoming event at the museum at the end of September. He
then told me of another event the week after the museum event and
said if I could only do one that would be the one to do. It is
a good event that takes place every year, the Waterford (VA) Festival.
He’d been doing the event for 20 years. I couldn’t
believe what I was hearing. Waterford....I’d been going yearly
since I was 10 years old. I’d been in the Confederate camp
at the same time as Dave for 20 years! Very weird, to say the least.
was discovered that Dave had internal bladder cancer and was to
have outpatient surgery the middle of September. I went up for
the surgery. He had been such a support to me, it was my turn to
repay him. Then the doctors found that it was also on the outside
of the bladder and he was scheduled for major surgery on October
31st. Once again, I went up. By this time my marriage had officially
ended. After the second surgery, I returned home a day early, explaining
to my mom that I felt like I was falling too fast, too quickly
and that I & Dave would be keeping a distance. However, by
Thanksgiving, Dave had come to Richmond to join the family to celebrate
the holiday. So much for keeping distance! My mom said she knew
that I had fallen in love with him and would not admit it. Looking
back, she was correct. My marriage had ended years ago, it was
time to move on.
And so I did. By Christmas, my mom could see
that we were getting serious. Looking back, I fell in love with
him because he made
me laugh. In March, Dave asked me to marry him. I wear a beautiful
ring that belonged to his mom. We are planning a War Between
the States wedding to be held at Sky Meadows State Park, hopefully
in October. After doing a program there, both Dave and I fell
love with it. It seemed fitting to have a period wedding held
in such a beautiful place. Dave has now been given a clean bill
So there you have it, A Point Lookout Love Story.
Neither one should have been at Pt. Lookout, but we both ended
up there. Who would have thought that "Cousin George" would
have been found just two days before we met and Dave was able to
help solve the mystery of his burial? They had been crossing paths
for 20 years at Waterford and more frequently in the last few months,
but always in different centuries. We recently discovered that
while he was in the Air Force, stationed at Arlington Hall, I was
shopping at the same PX and commissary (as he was) with my mommy.
He was 19; I was 3-that was nearly 40 years ago! It wasn’t
our time to meet ... until Point Lookout. The Lord knew exactly
when to let "Cousin George" surface!
.....Vanessa Cole, descendant of 39 CSA ancestors,
including William Battle Cole, 1st VA Battalion Reserves
and Lewis Leander Aiken, 6th NC Cav., both Point Lookout POWs.
Now, George Cole was the reason for the conversation
at Pt. Lookout between Vanessa and Dave, BUT....if it hadn’t
been for William Cole and Lewis Aiken, Vanessa’s interest
to go to Pt. Lookout would have never taken place and she would
have never gone to Pt. Lookout on that day...the day that was to
be the beginning of a bright and happy future with the Lee’s
Miserable in the prison pen..... the fellow in the cute hat. And
now, you have the rest of the story.
|Update ... June 8, 2002:
Renewal of Wedding Vows in Prison Pen
At the conclusion of Lee's Miserables last performance, they participated
in a period wedding. Rev. Gene Priore affiliated using War Between
the Sates wedding vows. Dave Purschwitz and Vanessa Cole renewed
their wedding vows in the pen. Special music was provided by Wade
and Charles Harris as they strummed the beautiful Ashokan's Farewell
melody. Michael Virts sang Shenandoah as a solo. After the ceremony,
the Confederate Santa Claus (Bob Parker) and artillerist, Lt. Walter
Shepard, held swords high as the bride and groom walked under the
arch. Following tradition, the bride was swatted on the be-hind
with the sword as they walked hand-in-hand down the parted isle
the POWs had provided for them.
Marty Allison, Dave Purschwitz, Bill Brown, Vanessa
Cole-Purschwitz, B.J. Carpenter