Study Tour Review - The Civil War in West Virginia with Ed Bearss, reviewed by Marilyn Dicke
The Smithsonian Associates Civil War E-Mail Newsletter, Volume 6, Number 6
The wrong side! I was on the wrong side at the Vienna Metro. Racing to the other side of the station, I found a knot of people, but no bus yet - I hadn't missed it! The bus was late. It had engine trouble on the way, but the clever driver fixed it. So west we went on Route 66 to Winchester, Virginia for my first Civil War campaign with Ed Bearss.
Before long we were at General "Stonewall" Jackson's 1861 winter headquarters, a lovely Victorian-era home loaned to the Confederates by a local dentist. There were many items used by Stonewall, such as a large desk, and many other items original to the time. The small museum store was jam-packed with Civil War buff-stuff.
From there, we traveled the back roads to Martinsburg, stopping at Unger's Store. General Jackson's troops also stopped here to rest and re-shoe their horses, re-shoeing being necessary once a month in the winter. Next, we went to Berkeley Springs, where Ed described the gathering of the Union's 13th Indiana Regiment. In Romney, we had a nice country buffet at Kady's Kitchen, then we walked to Fort Mill Ridge and on to a nearby cemetery, where Ed noted the iron crosses marking Confederate soldiers buried there.
The next stop was Philippi, a small town in the Tygart River Valley. It has a wonderful, long covered bridge linking it to Route 250. Here, in the first land battle of the Civil War, Union General Morris marched his troops all night in order to surprise Confederate General Porterfield's men before dawn. The Confederates fled to the hills, a retreat later called the "Phillipi Races" by Union newspapers. Before leaving, we visited the Victorian train station, now a visitor center. Ed told us about Jim Hanger, a young Confederate soldier who was the first amputee of the war. He created a wooden leg for himself that so impressed doctors that they convinced him to manufacture them for future amputees of the war. The company is still called Hanger Orthopedics.
It was late, and Ed's "troops" stopped for the night at the Elkins Motor Lodge in Elkins, WV. We had a tasty dinner and buffet breakfast at the attached 1863 tavern. But reveille on Sunday came early for us, and the first stop was at Beverly, where many years earlier, troops on both sides made their way to Rich Mountain. We walked the grounds of Camp Garnett, where General Garnett was defeated by Union General Rosecrans in July 1861. During the subsequent valley retreat, General Garnett would be the first general killed in the war.
Ed related that General Lee grew his famous beard during the very cold and wet winter of 1861. While encamped in these mountains, Lee developed a very complex plan to defeat the Union Army at Cheat Mountain. General Rust was the lynchpin for a five-pronged attack. Unfortunately, he never acted and they were defeated badly by Union General Reynolds. Finally, in January 1862, General Lee won the Battle of Allegheny Mountain and thus kept control of the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike.
After a bracing walk on Cheat Summit, the bus driver retraced the way down a narrow, unpaved road in Highland County. We had another wonderful buffet lunch at the Highland Inn in Monterey, Virginia. Our final stop was in McDowell, another lovely valley town, to discuss Stonewall's victory over General Schenck, and how these actions kept the valley in Confederate control until the close of the war.
Our own valley campaign was drawing to a close, and the troops in the bus were tired after two days of hard marching with Ed Bearss. But not Ed. He was still going strong all the way home, juggling questions and sharing more Civil War anecdotes. Ed made the early days of the Civil War, and the people who lived them, come alive. And to think I almost missed it!
Thank you, Marilyn, for your review! This was Marilyn's first Civil War tour, and she tells us she is hooked - say "hello" when you see her at the Gettysburg Battlefield 101 trip next month!