Battle of Rowlesburg Reenactment

May 14, 2009 - 2 Comments

by Jim Barnes


It was wet. That sums up much of the weekend of May 2nd and 3rd.  In fact, the weather put quite a damper on what could be a nice little spring event. Friday night’s torrential downpours left the field wet and any areas not covered with grass were all  mud. Fortunately, on Saturday, the rain held off all day and the troops were able to reenact the April 25th 1863, Battle of Greenland Gap, which had occurred the day before the Rowlesburg battle.

In the original battle, the 86 Union soldiers stationed in the Gap, found themselves confronted with approximately 2000 Confederate Cavalry around 5:00 in the afternoon. Their only chance of withstanding this onslaught was to hole up in  three  log buildings, one of which was a church. The Federals (Co. G of the 23rd Illinois and Co. A of the 14th West Virginia) knocked the mud chinking out of some of the logs to make rifle slits and thereby fortified held off the Rebels for several hours, until, as darkness was coming on, the Confederates managed to get close enough to set the church on fire. The Yanks still held on until the burning roof started to fall in.  The Federals in the other buildings soon surrendered when their ammunition ran out. The action had held up the Jones raid for much of the day and had inflicted over 50 casualties. Some historians have opined that this stout defense and hard riding wore down the raiders to such an extent that it contributed to their failure at Rowlesburg.

To commemorate this action, the Rowlesburg  organizing committee  built a small wooden church to represent the one in which the Federal soldiers fortified themselves. Likewise, for the reenactment,  this church was set afire and burned, delivering the Yanks to the Rebels.  A small, but enthusiastic crowd came out to see the battle and tour the camps.

That evening, a civil war ball was held in the gym of the old school (which has recently been deeded to the community and will be a center for the arts and the new home of the Greatest Generation Society’s  WWII museum.) The Rich Mountain String Band provided the music and Phyllis Baxter, as usual, did a fine job of calling the dancing.

Things took a turn for the worse overnight as more rain moved in and showed no evidence of letting up. Weather forcasts predicted a continuing downpour, so, just before church the organizers and the reenactors agreed that the Sunday battle would be called off.

It was an unfortunate way for the weekend to end. The folks in Rowlesburg do a great job of making reenactors feel welcome.  (Civil War and WWII) They provide great a meal on Saturday evening and a huge breakfast on Sunday morning. In every imaginable way they make an effort to make the reenacting community feel welcome. Unfortunately, the one thing they couldn’t do was make the rain stop.

Comments (2)

Chuck Critchfield

July 3rd, 2009 at 7:39 am    

Rain, rain, go away!!

PS – where was the 1st W. Va?

Thanks to those who did come. To the others, brush up on your SAFETY and drills

Jim Barnes

July 5th, 2009 at 6:23 pm    

Rain seems to be a constant this year. As for where everyone was, that’s a good question.

Leave a reply

Name *

Mail *