Kernstown opts for lawn party over battle

Rather than the typical show of uniformed troops and gunfire, reenactors and attendees at the 151st commemoration of the Second Battle of Kernstown will enjoy a day of picnicking, tours and period games.

The Kernstown Battlefield Association will host a lawn party from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday with two special 90-minute tours of the Pritchard house and lands at 10:30 and 2.

Association board member Sue Golden said she’s expecting a large turnout of costumed attendees for the free event, but there’s no dress code restriction. Leashed dogs will be welcome, and those who forget to pack a picnic can get concessions for sale at the battlefield.

For a hands-on first person jump back in history, attendees will be able to try their hand at common Civil War-era lawn games such as croquet, badminton, cornhole and rounders – the old-fashioned version of baseball.

Jennifer Jones will portray the role of Helen Pritchard during the lawn party.

“As I was doing the research for the lawn games, I stumbled across info about Helen and the Pritchard family and I wanted to learn more about this family,” Jones said. “To me, she had to have been an extremely strong woman to watch all of this unfold in her front yard.”

New battle maps with transparent overlays showing modern developments like roads and buildings will be available at the gift shop.

Lord Fairfax Community College history professor Jonathan Noyalas will be leading the two tours and said he hopes to provide a personal perspective on the impacts of the battle.

“It’s really trying to put a more human face to the war,” he said. “I think people tend to forget at times that these are real flesh and blood people.”

Noyalas said he believes the financial turmoil that came in the wake of the battle led Samuel Pritchard to an early grave. While doing research, Jones discovered that because Helen Pritchard had held northern sympathies, she was denied compensation for property damage by the war after her husband died.

Of the numerous historical tours Noyalas leads every year, he said emphasizing the human element has always been what interests people the most.

“For me its about offering new perspectives and helping people make connections with the past with personal stories,” he said.

Jones said that a big disadvantage to battle reenactments is that the attendees are simply spectators and many soldier hopefuls don’t have the insurance coverage or required training to reenact battles.

“I think our spectators are going to have more of an opportunity to be involved and take part,” she said.

Jones and Golden said they are happy to give that opportunity to everyone who wants to come to the historical site and take part in the festivities.

“The Civil War around here just isn’t over yet,” Golden said laughingly.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com