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Battle of Greenbrier River 150th Anniversary Event

By Hunter Lesser

 

Bartow WV:  Dazzling autumn colors, living history, and a Civil War veteran greeted visitors to this charming mountain village on October 8, 2011 to commemorate the Battle of Greenbrier River, fought here on October 3, 1861.

 

This 150th anniversary event took place on the grounds of Travellers Repose, a renowned inn on the old Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike.  Notables such as Stonewall Jackson lodged here prior to the war, on a major roadway connecting the Shenandoah Valley with the Ohio River.

 

The Bartow event featured a true veteran of the Battle of Greenbrier River—Parrott #23, an original 10-pounder cannon that fired at the inn 150 years ago.  Matt Switlik and members of Loomis’ Battery, First Michigan Light Artillery, brought the old veteran back and placed it in the yard with the muzzle pointed at Travellers Repose.

 

Living history at the Battle of Greenbrier River 150th included the portrayal of Elder john Kline and his wife by Jason and Julia Bauserman, organizers of the event.  Kline was a circuit-riding preacher killed for his pacifist beliefs.  Don Teter portrayed the writer, illustrator and mapmaker David H. Strother.  Visitors enjoyed Civil War exhibits, cider making, a ladies tea, and a walking tour of Confederate Camp Bartow and the well-preserved battlefield by Hunter Lesser, author of a new guidebook on the First Campaign.

 

Other highlights included dedication of an unmarked Confederate cemetery.  The subject of a short story by Ambrose Bierce entitled “A Bivouac of the Dead,” this burial ground contains the graves of perhaps eighty Confederate soldiers who died at Camp Bartow in 1861.  Marc and Jill Ramsey, owners of Owens and Ramsey Historical Booksellers of Richmond, VA, placed an antique United Daughters of the Confederacy marker at the site.  Jill has an ancestor buried here.

 

The day was capped off by a spirited “barn dance” in the yard at Travellers Repose, with period music by the Rich Mountain String Band.

 

In early 1861, innkeeper Andrew Yeager had turned heads with a chilling prophecy that war would come to his sequestered valley.  By midyear, Confederates of the Army of the Northwest under General Henry R. Jackson seized Yeager’s farm and fortified Camp Bartow.  On October 3, 1861, Union forces under Joseph J. Reynolds engaged that camp in a spectacular artillery duel, riddling the walls of Travellers Repose.

 

Reynolds failed to open the road east to the Shenandoah Valley, but Andrew Yeager’s prophecy was painfully on the mark.  The Yeagers fled as refugees, and their home and farmstead was put to the torch.  After the war, survivors returned and rebuilt.  Today, owner/descendant Jessie Powell, 96 years young, proudly displays mementoes of the turbulent times at Travellers Repose.



Members of Loomis Battery, 1st Michigan Light
Artillery, pose with Parrott gun #23, a true veteran of the Battle of
Greenbrier River and Jessie Beard Powell, 96 year-old matron of
Travellers Repose.  From left: Matt Switlik, Jessie Powell, Fritz Brohn,
Bob Coch and Eric Carney.


Hunter Lesser of Elkins, WV, leads a tour of
the trenches at Confederate Camp Bartow and the well-preserved
Greenbrier River battlefield.



Jessie Beard Powell, 96 year-old owner of
Travellers Repose, stands with Parrott gun #23 and members of Loomis
Battery, 1st Michigan Light Artillery.  From left: Matt Switlik, Jessie
Powell, Fritz Brohn and Bob Coch.  A 10-pounder shell in the muzzle of
the gun was recovered on the property many decades ago.

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* All photographs are courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives
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