ARARAT, Va. — History buffs and others with an interest in the War Between the States will have a field day, two to be exact, next weekend in Ararat.
That’s when the 26th-annual Civil War Encampment and Living History Weekend is scheduled at Laurel Hill, the birthplace of Confederate Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart.
The family oriented gathering on Oct. 7-8 will feature mock Civil War battles both days — waged by re-enactment troops in blue and gray — along with string music, an 1800s fashion show, a Saturday night dance, a candlelight tour, a Sunday morning church service, food vendors, Civil War sutlers (those who followed troops and sold provisions to them) and more.
Another highlight will be appearances by descendants of James Ewell Brown Stuart, and guest speaker Monte Akers of Austin, Texas, who has written two books on the local Civil War figure. There also will be impersonators portraying other generals.
The mock battles are scheduled for 3 p.m. on Oct. 7 and 2 p.m. on Oct. 8.
While the annual encampment and re-enactment event has been held since the early 1990s, its 2017 edition is occurring in the midst of a challenging period for the nation as a whole in terms of preserving Confederate history.
In the wake of an Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville, a modern-day war has been waged against statues and memorials honoring those who fought for the South. This has included acts of vandalism and removals of such fixtures by officials of municipalities and colleges with little public input.
Amid this turmoil, organizers of the event at Laurel Hill are embracing it as an opportunity to provide a truer picture of the Confederacy.
They say it will allow attendees to learn more about the defining period in the nation’s history, while showing support for preservation efforts at the Stuart birthplace.
This will include a scheduled appearance by a new attraction this year, Voices of the Confederacy, an educational group equipped with displays highlighting the causes and effects of the war.
Despite recent acts targeting what some consider Southern heritage, organizers of the Civil War Encampment and Living History Weekend say the possibility of not staging the 2017 event didn’t cross their minds.
“As far as I know, none of us have thought about doing so,” said Tom Bishop, a spokesman for the sponsoring J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace Preservation Trust Inc.
“It’s all go and has been,” Bishop added of the feeling among members of the birthplace board of directors.
“Those who support this event will be just as excited as before — and maybe more so,” he said.
Unlike other parts of the country, officials in Patrick County have gone on record in support of reflecting local Confederate history. That included voting recently to protect a statue in front of the county courthouse in Stuart.
Bishop said the Patrick tourism department also has awarded a grant for the re-enactment event and it continues to be embraced by key participants. “We have a lot of speakers lined up as guests, maybe more so than in past years,” he said.
“If we’re coming up short at all, it’s in re-enactors,” Bishop said of those who attend various events with authentic Civil War uniforms and equipment to wage the mock battles and educate the public. Sometimes there are conflicts with similar gatherings held elsewhere at this time of year.
“They’ve not let us down before,” Bishop said.
Slate of activities
Gates will open at 9 a.m. on both days of the encampment.
The tentative schedule for Saturday includes:
• 10 a.m. — A grand review and flag-raising ceremony at the main flagpole.
• 10:45 a.m. — Civil War-era music by Tom Roush, Tent 1.
• 11:30 a.m. — Special speaker Monte Akers, Tent 1.
• 12:15 p.m. — Ladies tea, Tent 2.
• 12:30 p.m. — Music by Tom Roush, Tent 1
• 1:15 p.m. — Generals’ council of war, Tent 1
• 2 p.m. — Music by The Laurel Hill String Band, Tent 1
• 2:15 p.m. — Ladies fashion show, Tent 2
• 3 p.m. — Mock battle
• 3:45 p.m. — Black rose memorial service, Tent 1 and Stuart Cemetery
• 4:15 p.m. — Laurel Hill String Band, Tent 1
• 4:45 p.m. — Closing ceremony, Tent 1
• 5:15 p.m. — Supper break
• 7:30 p.m. — Music by The Laurel Hill String Band, Tent 1
• 8 p.m. — Dance, Tent 1
Additional activities will include storytelling with Martha Jo Price in Tent 2 at 11 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 1:45 p.m., 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 8 schedule
• 9:30 a.m. — Music by Herbert and Tina Conner, Tent 1
• 10 a.m. — Church service by Chaplain Alan Farley, Tent 1
• 11 a.m. — Music by Herbert and Tina Conner, Tent 1
• 11:45 a.m. — Speaker Monte Akers, Tent 1
• 12:45 p.m. — Generals’ council of war, Tent 1
• 2 p.m. — Mock battle
• 4 p.m. — Gates close
Admission will cost $8 per person, with those 12 and under to be admitted free.
Laurel Hill is located at 1091 Ararat Highway, just across the Virginia line via N.C. 104 from Mount Airy.