August 12, 2014 - No Comments
by Jim Barnes
This event usually occurs at the end of May or the first week in June. Often it happens on the same weekend as the Reading Airshow, so I have rarely attended. The last two years, these events have occurred on different weekends, so that hasn’t been a problem. The reenactment commemorates the “Philippi Races” of 1861 in which troops under orders from General George B. McClellan, attacked Confederates encamped in Philippi . Since the Rebels fled the town as soon as cannon balls started landing in their camp, there were no combat deaths and only a handful of wounded. The most important result of the action was the publicity that Mclellan got from it. Thus began his rise toward command of the Army of the Potomac. (Which may have been the only good thing that the Confederates got out of the skirmish. )
This is one of those small local events that has, at least for us, the advantage of being very close to home so that we can make a day trip of it. Don’t look for a lot of authenticity in the battles, but units and individual reenactors always have the option of setting up authentic camps and educating the public if they are so moved.
As it is, the town does a good job of supporting the event and reenactors are treated well. There are a number of side attractions besides the battles, including some excellent first person performances by various historical figures. (This year it was Harriet Tubman.) There is also an excellent local choral group, the Blue-Gray Choir, which performs moving renditions of period music. On Saturday evening, a nice Civil War ball is held on the courthouse grounds.
I didn’t feel much like taking part in the battles this year. I have decided that, at my age, I should back off from some of that. So, I put on the General’s uniform and told the guys I would be McClellan for the day. I could stand way back from the battles and then take credit for the victory! That worked out okay.