Stonewall in the Valley: The Sesquicentennial’s Schedule of Commemorative Events
Down the I-81 corridor, from Winchester to Lexington, Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley is preparing to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Jackson’s Valley Campaign. From museums and cemeteries to forts and battlefields, you can visit and absorb the history and heritage of that time.
But if you’re into a chronological tour–following the campaign fight by fight–start with Jackson’s opening battle at Kernstown, his only defeat, scheduled for March 24 at the Pritchard-Grim Farm and Rose Hill Farm.
On April 27-29, travel to Elkton to relive with re-enactors, Stonewall Jackson’s Grand Encampment centered in and around the Miller-Kite House and Museum. Here, take in Jackson’s restored headquarters where he and Gen. Ed “Alleghany” Johnson planned a secret, lightning attack on Union General Robert Milroy’s forces west of Staunton, securing the Valley Campaign’s first victory at McDowell.
The following weekend, May 4-6, park your car atop Shenandoah Mountain west of Staunton to walk the works of scenic Fort Edward Johnson, then proceed to a full re-enactment of the Battle of McDowell, where horse-drawn wagons tour living history encampments amidst historian talks scheduled in the village.
VMI’s New Market Day Parade and Ceremony, held every May 15—is a full dress military parade to honor those who “died on the Field of Honor” at the Battle of New Market on this date in 1864. This spring, while on campus, pause a moment at the graves of six of the New Market fallen in front of the Preston Library, then walk over to the Four Apostles—“Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John”—the storied four guns of the Rockbridge Artillery that backed up Stonewall on so many fields. And while in Lexington, you can also tour Stonewall Jackson’s Home, visit his grave in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, and then pay your respects to the Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee University, where Robert E. Lee and his family are entombed.
As a bonus, the New Market Battlefield State Historic Park will not only hold the 148th anniversary re-enactment of the 1864 Battle of New Market on Sunday, May 20, but this year they are hosting the re-enactment of Jackson’s victory in the First Battle of Winchester on Saturday, May 19. And despite the temptation to spend hours in the park’s Virginia Museum of the Civil War, a half hour’s drive over to the Luray Valley Museum on the evening of the 19th will get you “An Evening with Stonewall Jackson.”
Yet THE place “to meet” the most civil war “personalities” will be in Winchester on June 1-3, when the “Gathering of Eagles” at the Old Courthouse Civil War Museum brings together several dozen living history rebels and yanks ranging from Lee, Longstreet, Jackson, Stuart, and Mosby, to Grant, Meade, Sherman, Joshua Chamberlain, and yes, George Custer!
Because Cross Keys and Port Republic are on private property, these last two battles of the Valley Campaign will be re-enacted at Middletown near the Cedar Creek & Belle Grove National Historic Site … Cross Keys on June 9, Port Republic on June 10.
Yet if you are moved to walk the ground on the actual anniversaries of the fighting, the National Park Service in cooperation with the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation will be hosting a series of on-site tours–“150 Years Ago…On This Day”—starting at Kernstown on March 23, then to McDowell on May 8, Front Royal on May 23, Middletown on May 24, Winchester on May 25, Cross Keys on June 8, and Port Republic on June 9. A campaign summary and closing ceremony—Stonewall Jackson’s Way: Remembering the Valley Campaign—is scheduled at Grand Caverns on June 16, featuring living history participants, candle-lighted cave tours, and an in-cave ballroom dance!
And this only begins to touch on all there is to see and do in the Shenandoah Valley this spring. So distance yourself from metropolitan traffic, be it a day trip or a long weekend, and rediscover your country’s history.