Philippi Races 2010

July 11, 2010 - No Comments

by Jim Barnes

The following is a report on the annual Blue-Gray Reunion in Philippi, WV by our correspondent, Bill Donegan:

On June 3rd through June 6th Linda and I attended, and participated in, the 149th Annual Blue & Gray Reunion in Philippi, West Virginia.

Linda and I started this year’s preparation back in March when we began rehearsals on Sunday afternoons with the Blue/Gray Choir. Since we live in Charleston it is an all day event (173 miles round trip) for us. We love it and that’s why we do it. We also love the people we sing with.

On May 14, 1861, Col. Porterfield arrived in Grafton, Virginia from Harpers Ferry. Robert E. Lee had sent him on a recruiting trip to protect the north/western portion of Virginia. Since April a company of volunteers, calling them selves “The Barbour Grays” had been organized in Philippi.

Thomas Bedford, was Captain of a company of 52 men. Albery Reger had also raised and had been appointed Captain of another company.

The new recruits for the Confederate army had to use their personal weapons and equipment. They had no tents, no supplies, and no training.

Col. Porterfield, was a graduate of VMI and a veteran of the Mexican War. He was appalled that the men couldn’t keep in step and that the men in charge did not know what they were doing. These two companies of the “Barbour Grays were under Col. Porterfield’s command and later became part of the 31st Virginia Regiment as Company H.

It was these men of the Barbour Grays who were attacked by a well organised Union Army on June 3rd, 1861. Colonel Porterfield had begun burning the bridges on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Meanwhile Capt. George B. McClellan had been made a general and placed in command of Ohio troops. With four regiments he crossed the Ohio River on May 26 and pursued the Confederates. The small engagement at Philippi was led by Colonels Kelly and Dumont, who completely surprised the Barbour Grays, who were sleeping and many fought the battle dressed only in their underwear. The confederates beat a hasty retreat that later became known as “The Philippi Races”. This was the first land battle of the Civil War.

SPECIAL NOTE: The First West Virginia Volunteer Infantry/Artillery want you members of the unit to make every effort to attend next years celebration of the 150th.

Linda and I kicked off our long week-end on Thursday night by singing with the choir at the gazebo, this was followed by another Blue?Gray choir rehearsal.

Friday we were up early as we both had work to do for kids day. Linda was stationed in the gym, giving a presentation about Andersonville prison. This ran from 8:30 am to 2:30 PM. I was in the basement of the City Building guarding and assisting Harriet Tubman, an American heroine, whose strength, vision, and determination inspired many to risk their lives working for the underground railroad, and as spies for the Union Army. I was thers as Provost Marshal working crowd control and enforcing the no cellphone, no camera policy. Then a quick meal break at 3pm, a nap and we were back to work. Linda led a candle light tour of the Philippi historical area beginning at 9PM til 10 pm. And I was the presiding Judge for a hearing regarding the charge of treason against Rose Greenhow. I was Union General Dix..

Saturday friends Ron and Debbie Wenig joined us for a day of relaxation. I told them that all we were doing was singing and dancing on Saturday. At 3PM we had the Blue Gray choir performance at Crim Church and at 8Pm the Military Ball.

Sunday we started with breakfast at the B & B “Philippi Covered Bridge B & B” and it began to rain. In fact we had a tornado warning. Ron and I decided that no battle would take place so we loaded up our guns and went to Supper. While we were eating the shy cleared up and the battle took place on the main street of Philippi and we watched it from the restaurant.

We were a little disappointed that we had not participated in the battle but vowed to do so next year at the 150th.

There are so many differed things to do at this event that you should come and investigate the possibilities. There are traditional crafts, food court, quilt show, Adaland Mansion tours, Ladies tea, entertainment at the gazebo through out the day, Sutlers, parade, candlelight tour, 5K run, military camps, little soldiers battle, Artillery demonstrations, Skirmishes, amputations, Dinner, Ball, period church service, and best of all the Blue and Gray Choir at Crim Church with period music at 3pm on Saturday.

This concludes my report.

Bill Donegan


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