150th Anniversary Tour: Second Kernstown

Posted: July 17, 2014

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER— Local Civil War history buffs have a big weekend ahead with the 150th anniversary of the Second Battle of Kernstown.

The Kernstown Battlefield Association (KBA) is hosting a weekend of events at the Kernstown Battlefield at 610 Battle Park Drive.

“I think the overall purpose of this is to help the public understand what happened here 150 years ago and the importance of the battle,” said Gary Crawford, president of the KBA.

The anniversary commemoration will be held Saturday and Sunday, with gates opening at 9 a.m. The visitor center, museum and gift shop open at the same time.

Visitors will have access to the Virginia Civil War 150 Historymobile, a 53-foot expandable tractor-trailer converted into a “museum on wheels” that is touring the state for similar events. Its tour began in 2011 for the anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas.

The weekend’s events will relate to both the time period and the war, beginning with a tour of the Pritchard House, where Mrs. Pritchard assisted the wounded and where soldiers were treated after the battle.

The building is an Antebellum home built in 1854, Crawford said. It was occupied at the time of the battle.

“Very little has changed in the house since that time,” Crawford said. While the house isn’t fully furnished, there is some period furniture to see as well.

Another period event is the Civil War Fashion Show, where visitors can view civilian fashions from the era.

For events more germane to the anniversary, there will be a walking tour of the Kernstown Battlefield and a demonstration during which re-enactors will go over different tactics and field maneuvers used in 1864 and explain the way these changed over the course of the war to produce better results for the Confederate army.

In the evening, there will be a living history program devoted to the pre-battle experience in camp.

“They’re going to take people through the camps,” Crawford said. “The re-enactors are going to talk about what it was like preparing that night knowing the battle was the next morning.”

Sunday’s slate is the same but does not include the evening program. The day will conclude with a concert by the Shenandoah Valley Minstrels at 2 p.m.

Throughout both days, re-enactors will be on site.

There will also be the opportunity for visitors to dress in period clothing and get their photograph taken with a Civil War era camera called a tintype or a wet-plate camera.

The event is free to attend, but donations are welcome.

On Saturday, KBA is holding a 150th Anniversary Commemoration Tour.

The tour will feature seven stops, each at a location of a skirmish that led up to the Second Battle of Kernstown.

“It’s a pristine tour spot, right on the Shenandoah River, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” said Scott Patchan, a historian and author who will be acting as tour guide. He is also a board member for the KBA.

In late June of 1864, the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was embroiled in the siege of Petersburg against Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. In an effort to gain the upper hand, Lee ordered Lt. Gen. Jubal Early to take his men and put pressure on Washington, D.C.

While coming close to marching on the capital, Early forced Grant to split two army corps from his forces in Petersburg, or nearly 20,000 men.

With the job done, Early withdrew his men to Virginia and into the Shenandoah Valley.

It is that withdrawal, with Union forces chasing them, that the tour will follow, ultimately ending at the Second Battle of Kernstown.

The battle itself was a turning point in the war. According to Patchan, the activities of Early came at the worst time for Lincoln, as he was campaigning for re-election and support for the war was waning.

“We have all this history that occurred there,” Patchan said.

Registration for the tour itself has already ended. It cost participants $95 per person, including the motorcoach tour, box lunch and tour guide.

Proceeds of the event go to benefit the KBA, which takes an active hand in preservation of local battlefields.

The Kernstown Battlefield, owned by the KBA, is one of the last of the untouched historical sites in the area, according to Patchan.

“If it had not been for the efforts of the KBA, that 300 acres would all be a strip [mall],” he said.

“You know the old saying,” Patchan said. “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”

For a schedule of events, visit kernstownbattle.org and go to the Calendar of Events tab. There will also be a bake sale to benefit the Kernstown Battlefield Association.

— Contact Stephen Nielsen at snielsen@winchesterstar.com