ARARAT, Va. — After an unavoidable cease-fire in 2015, cannon and musket volleys soon will echo again when the Civil War Encampment and Living History Weekend returns to J.E.B. Stuart’s birthplace in Patrick County.
Last year, the scheduled 25th-annual event was a casualty of heavy rains that caused flooding, mudslides, washed-out roadways and other problems which led to a state of emergency being declared for the county.
The gathering that is both educational and entertaining was cancelled as a result of those problems and an inability to schedule a makeup date during the busy fall festival season.
This was quite a departure for an event long billed as being held rain or shine, especially for reenactors who are accustomed to appearing in all kinds of weather.
“We’ve always done it regardless,” said Tom Bishop, a spokesman for the J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace Preservation Trust Inc., which organizes the encampment and reenactment that will resume on Oct. 1-2. “We couldn’t help that it (the cancellation) happened.”
Last year’s weather not only broke a streak and kept a popular event from being staged, the trust group also took a hit financially, being deprived of proceeds that help preserve the Stuart birthplace site for future generations.
That amounts to roughly $4,000 per year, Bishop added Thursday. Attendance can range from 2,000 to 3,000.
But excitement is running high for the upcoming encampment and history event on the first weekend of October. Gates will be open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on both Oct. 1 and 2 at Laurel Hill, located just across the Virginia line via N.C. 104 from Mount Airy.
As in the past, the highlight will be recreations of Civil War battles by Southern and Northern re-enactment troops.
The mock battles are scheduled for 2:45 p.m. on Oct. 1 and 2 p.m. on Oct. 2. These skirmishes tend to include uniformed soldiers in gray and blue, horses, authentic rifles and artillery pieces, including both big and small cannons.
“I don’t know what the battle scenes are,” Bishop said.
Past reenactments have featured the Battle of Yellow Tavern — during which Gen. Stuart was mortally wounded — and the Battle of Brandy Station, a major cavalry engagement in which Stuart took part.
Activities will begin on Oct. 1 with a grand review, flag raising and special presentations.
The weekend also will feature a number of special guests and highlights, including:
• Henry Kidd, a Civil War artist and lecturer from Colonial Heights, Virginia, who grew up playing on the battlefields surrounding Petersburg and has studied the war and its people in-depth due to his passion for this period of American history.
• Sharon Stuart McRee, a great-great-granddaughter of J.E.B. Stuart from Glendale, California, who has extensively researched Stuart family history in America and abroad. She is expected to be joined by other family members.
• Authentic Civil War reenactors portraying generals Stuart, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, A.P. Hill, Jubal Early, William “Extra Billy” Smith, Lewis Armistead and possibly others.
• Live musical performances by The Fisher Peak Timber Rattlers, Zephyr Lightning Bolts, Laurel Hill String Band and Herbert, Tina and Catherine Conner.
• A black rose memorial service after the battle sequences, a ladies tea directed by Joan Williams, a Saturday night dance, a candlelight tour and a Sunday morning church service led by the Rev. Allen Farley, a Civil War chaplain.
The birthplace trust group will sell gift items such as books, prints, mugs, T-shirts and more, including a new commemorative T-shirt to mark the 25th anniversary of the event. Artwork by the late Pat Gwyn Woltz of Mount Airy will be available, depicting what the Laurel Hill home might have looked like.
Authentic Civil War sutlers also are to be on hand with food and merchandise.
Sales of $1 raffle tickets will include a first-place prize of a bear paw quilt hand-made by Della Deathridge, a second prize of a J.E.B. Stuart bust created by Allen F. Weidhaas and a third prize, a J.E.B. Stuart print by artist Minnie Martin.
The admission cost for the event is $8 per person (but free for children 12 and under), with parking free.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.