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Rich Mountain 150th Events Begin July 6

A series of activities from July 6 through July 11 will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the First Campaign of the Civil War and its pivotal Battle of Rich Mountain.

One hundred fifty years ago, newly formed armies from the north and south struggled for control of the mountains of western Virginia. The First Campaign of the Civil War provided leaders for the larger conflict to come, and helped determine the fate of the new state of West Virginia.

Sponsored by the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation with support from the West Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission, the commemoration will begin with three evening activities.

“The West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission chose to sponsor these activities as their signature events for 2011 because of the importance of the Battle of Rich Mountain and its role in leading to the formation of the state of West Virginia,” said commission member Dr. Victor Thacker of Elkins. Thacker said if the Union had lost at Rich Mountain, West Virginia would not exist today.  

Members of the Sesquicentennial Commission and the RMBF Board of Directors will greet the public July 6 during a reception beginning at 6 p.m. at the Randolph County Community Arts Center. Guests will also have the opportunity to meet W. Hunter Lesser, author of “Rebels at the Gate: Lee and McClellan on the Front Line of a Nation Divided,” the authoritative work on the First Campaign.

Special Civil War art exhibits will also be on display. “Echoes of the Civil War: 150 Years Later” features the work of 10 nationally prominent Civil War artists in the center’s Great Hall. The photography exhibit, “Grit and Determination, an American Civil War Retrospective” by master photographer Reid Mason of Barbour County, is located in the Maxwell Gallery.

The Rich Mountain String Band will provide music of the era during the reception, which will close with a slide show and overview of the First Campaign presented by Lesser at 8 p.m.

The First Campaign and subsequent military action in western Virginia will be the topic of the keynote address, “The Western Virginia Campaigns, 1861: Conduct and Legacy,” at the Harper McNeely Auditorium of Davis & Elkins College on Thursday, July 7. Presented by A. Wilson Greene, executive director of Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier located near Petersburg, Va., the free program will begin at 8 p.m.

Greene served as the first president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites from 1990 to 1994. During his tenure, APCWS purchased the core 40 acres of Rich Mountain Battlefield on behalf of the newly formed Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation. He has also worked as a National Park Service historian at a variety of locations, and is the author of more than 20 published works on the Civil War.

Making a rare appearance outside of their home county, the Blue and Gray Choir of Philippi will perform in a concert at the RCCAC on Friday, July 8. Under the direction of Dr. Judson Bracey, composer and professor of music at Alderson-Broaddus College, the 40-member choir will perform songs of the Civil War and other patriotic pieces accompanied by Michele Moore on piano. The 8 p.m. concert is free to the public.

Commemorative events will continue through the weekend with reenactments, encampments, demonstrations and living history interpretations at the Rich Mountain Battlefield Civil War Site. A special ceremony at 6 p.m. on July 11—the actual battle anniversary—will conclude the activities.

For a full schedule of events, see www.richmountain.org. To register for a two-day guided tour with Lesser and Civil War expert Rick Wolfe of Clarksburg, call 304-637-7424.

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* All photographs are courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives
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