Event brings lesser known battle to life

Posted: July 29, 2013

The Winchester Star

Thirteen-year-old Sam Obenland (left) of Frederick, Md., holds a .54 caliber Sharps rifle as he takes part in the Second Battle of Kernstown Civil War encampment on Saturday morning at the Kernstown Battlefield. He is a member of the 1st Maryland Cavalry (dismounted). Right, author and historian Scott Patchan leads a tour on the 149th anniversary of the battle. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

KERNSTOWN — History buffs and curious citizens got a lesson on the strategy and bravery involved in the Second Battle of Kernstown with a weekend of activities held to remember the historic Civil War engagement.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Kernstown Battlefield Association celebrated the 149th anniversary of the Second Battle of Kernstown with an event dubbed “Jubal’s July,” which included a walking battlefield tour, live period music from Shenandoah Valley Minstrels, a period fashion show, a living history encampment, infantry drills and demonstrations, an artillery exhibit, a blacksmithing demonstration and tours of the Pritchard House.

The association owns and operates the 315-acre battlefield on the Pritchard-Grim Farm along the city’s southwestern border. Pritchard family members stayed in the cellar of the home at the site during the First and Second battles of Kernstown, which were fought on their farm in 1862 and 1864.

“It was horrific,” said association volunteer Roger Henderberg, of the second battle. “I can’t stress enough what a horrific slaughtering it was.”

The battlefield is off Valley Pike (U.S. 11) at 610 Battle Park Drive.

The First Battle of Kernstown occurred on March 23, 1862, when Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was defeated by Col. Nathan Kimball and Col. Erastus B. Tyler.

The Second Battle of Kernstown was fought on July 24, 1864. Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early’s 16,000 men defeated Union Brig. Gen. George Crook’s Army of West Virginia, which had 14,000 soldiers.

“Crook does not recognize the massive size of this force,” said author and historian Scott C. Patchan of Haymarket. “He completely misreads the situation.”

Patchan, who led the tours, said the Second Battle of Kernstown was a much larger battle than others in the nearby area, but it doesn’t receive the same notoriety because “Stonewall Jackson was not there.”

Patchan described Early, who was 48 at the time, as a “profane” man and the only one who could get away with cursing in front of Gen. Robert E. Lee. He was dubbed Lee’s “bad old man.”

The battle left 1,200 Union soldiers and approximately 200 Confederate soldiers killed, wounded or captured, according to Patchan.

With the victory, Early was able to launch a raid into northern territory, where he burned Chambersburg, Pa., as retribution for the burning of civilian houses and farms earlier in the campaign by the Union.

Friends Gary Johnson and Noel Vold both live in Stephenson but hail from Minnesota and South Dakota, respectively. The two have been in the area for less than three years, so they decided to take Saturday’s tour to learn a bit more about Winchester.

“There’s a lot of history around here,” Johnson said. “We’re still learning about the area. In the Midwest, we’re not directly impacted by the Civil War.”

“I do enjoy history a great deal,” added Vold. “So I fit into this very well.”

Walter W. Kastenmayer, 77, drove from Charlottesville to learn more about the battle. It was his first time in Winchester.

“[The Second Battle of Kernstown] is not quite as well known,” he said. “Everybody’s heard about the First, Second and Third battles of Winchester, but you don’t hear as much about Kernstown.”

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com