The Southern Division Living History Association, Highland Historical Society & Highland Chamber of Commerce cordially invite you to participate in the 155th Anniversary Commemorative Living History & Reenactment at McDowell, Virginia. We welcome all serious historical interpreters to join us in presenting the experiences of the soldiers who participated in the battle, as well as the citizens of the village and surrounding region.
The event will feature:
• A "regiment vs. regiment" size battle reenactment held on a part of the original battlefield.
• Opportunities for authentic first-person interpretation in a town that retains much of its period atmosphere.
• Educational program for regional schools all day on Friday.
• Troops of both sides will be garrisoned throughout town.
• Civilians who will explain the daily life of the 1860s and show the impact the war had on the civilians of Highland County and the Allegheny Highlands Region.
The website contains a site description, historical setting, detailed explanation of the event goals, rules and registration materials.
The sponsors also want to emphasize that this event will have individual registration only! Unit commanders may send a single check to cover their unit, but each individual must fill out a separate registration form and sign the waiver. There will be NO EXCEPTIONS to this rule.
Overall Event Staff: Jim White, Bob Denton, Lorraine White
Federal Military: Scot Buffington, Federal Chief of Staff.
Confederate Military: Dick Watters, Commanding
Civilian Reenactor Coordinators: Jessica Babcock
Website: Keith Murray (webmaster), content provided by Organizing Committee
We will be guests of the village of McDowell, which is located along US Highway 250, approximately 33 miles west of the City of Staunton. A detailed site map and directions are included on the website.
McDowell is located in the beautifully scenic valley of the Bullpasture River at an altitude of approx. 2600 feet, and among some of the highest mountains in the western Virginia Alleghenies.
The living history programs will take place both in town and on developed farmland and forest along the Bullpasture River. The focus of much of our activities will be the McDowell Presbyterian Church, which served as the primary hospital for wounded Federal soldiers, and some Confederates, both during and after the battle. The bricks of the church facade still bear inscriptions scratched into them by soldiers during this time.
The McDowell battlefield remains in nearly pristine condition. Various portions are owned by the Civil War Preservation Trust, the Lee-Jackson Foundation and the Highland Historical Society. All proceeds from this year's event, will, as always, be returned to the local community to be used for preservation and restoration efforts. Proceeds from McDowell 2001 helped the Highland Historical Society purchase the Bullpasture River Field - 55 acres of the core area of the battlefield, and the George Washington Hull House. Proceeds from McDowell 2017 will be used to endow the museum and help continue its role as an interpretative center for the battle.
Generally considered the second full scale engagement of Jackson's brilliant Valley Campaign, the Battle of McDowell took place May 8, 1862 on the slopes of Sitlington's Hill, a spur of Bullpasture Mt. lying above the village of the same name. It was here that 2000 Federal troops under Robert Milroy & Robert Schenck attacked an advanced force of Confederates under Edward "Allegheny" Johnson, who had already occupied the hill. Johnson's troops were reinforced by the brigades of Taliaferro and Campbell (under Jackson), and the Federal attacks were successfully repelled. Nevertheless, the battle furnished enough time for the remaining 4000 Federal troops to retire beyond McDowell, where they were joined by the attacking force at dark. Jackson's army, numbering nearly 10,000, took up the pursuit the next day, leaving behind a detachment of cavalry and the VMI Cadet Battalion to guard Federal prisoners (mostly wounded). The remainder of Jackson's troops chased the Federals through Monterey, and down the South Branch valley to just south of Franklin, West Virginia, where they turned back.
In many ways the battle could be considered a lopsided, "Pyrrhic" Southern victory, as the Confederates suffered 498 casualties vs. the Federals' 256. Milroy had boldly attacked Jackson's advanced guard and the courage of the Federal troops had staved off a potential Union disaster. Nevertheless, the battle accomplished several important objectives for Jackson. It immobilized the major portion of Union General Fremont's Army, isolating them well beyond the imposing barrier of Shenandoah Mountain, and intimidated Fremont himself from any further deployment for nearly a month. It also convinced Nathaniel Banks, overall commander of the Valley Region, that Jackson had much greater strength than he actually possessed, a suspicion which Banks had held since the Battle of Kernstown. Finally, it provided Jackson's troops, especially the men of his second (Campbell's) and third (Taliaferro's) brigades, with a much needed victory, boosting their lagging morale and convincing them of their ability to win. The hard marching and fighting of the McDowell action, often with little or no rest, soon resulted in their referring to themselves as Jackson's "foot cavalry".
• Interpret the camp life, attitude and equipment of the Confederate and Federal soldier during the First Valley Campaign.
• Reenact a portion of the battle at a "regiment vs. regiment" scale.
• Units that portray companies/regiments which were present at the battle are encouraged to review their part in the action and be able to give a thorough account to the public.
• Portray the local population's interaction with both the occupying Federal troops and the Confederate liberators.
• Interpret the life and times of the yeoman and tenant farmers of the region in May 1862.
• Highlight and illustrate the culture of the Virginia Allegheny highlands.