Civil War weekend kicks off today

This weekend will feature living history programs, tours, talks, youth programs, special exhibits and National Park Service programs.

The weekend kicks-off with a Civil War History Trolley Tour from 6 to 7:30 p.m. today. The tour departs from the Winchester-Frederick County Visitors Center and will highlight activities taking place over the weekend. Tickets are $5.

Terence Heder, director of interpretation, education and history for the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District, said the purpose behind the Civil War weekend is for the Civil War partners in the area to come together to offer an array of events to give visitors a chance to sample all of the Civil War sites in the Northern Shenandoah Valley during one weekend.

“Visitors benefit from the wide array of activities and experiences, each telling different parts of the region’s remarkable Civil War story,” he said. “The partners benefit through the greater visibility they gain in working together and the community benefits by the increased awareness of its own history.

“In addition, the event is designed to be a heritage tourism draw that attracts visitors from outside the region, visitors who will also patronize the area’s downtowns, restaurants, shops, hotels and other non-Civil War tourism destinations,” he added.

He estimated between 500 and 1,000 people will take part in the weekend festivities. This is the eighth year for the Civil War weekend. It was first held from 2004 to 2006 and then every year after 2009, with the exception of 2014 when other events were scheduled due to the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

He added that the event began as a Winchester-Frederick County initiative and then spread to include Clarke County, and for the first time will include an event in Shenandoah County this year.

“We hope that by offering an array of entertaining and enlightening programs that the public will take away a greater awareness of the region’s Civil War history and historic sites, while having a great time,” he said.

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park will offer programs today and Saturday, which includes a car-caravan tour, walking tour, Battle of Cedar Creek in a Box program, National Regiment living history encampment and the Civil War Soldier for an Evening program.

The new Clarke County Civil War Driving Tour at Clermont Farm in Berryville will hold self-guided tours that include the battles of Cool Spring and Berryville, Mosby’s Rangers and partisan warfare, and wartime and post war story of African-Americans from the community. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters will host a confederate infantry encampment with live musket firing from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. A National Park Service ranger will have a booth set up from children.

The Sheridan’s Field Hospital at Shawnee Springs Preserve in Winchester will host guided tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The temporary hospital was the largest during the Civil War.

The Old Court House Civil War Museum will hold an interactive living history event on the lawn of the courthouse from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. Re-enactors will portray Winchester during the Civil War. History in Action, a children’s event, will be held from 4 to 6 p.m., and combines an Amazing Race-style competition with puzzle-solving, mini-games and a scavenger hunt for prizes.

The Newtown History Center will host Kenny Rowletter of the National Civil War Chaplains Museum for two lectures focusing on Civil War chaplain weddings and war-time service at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday.

Hupp’s Hill Civil War Park and Museum in Strasburg will host author William J. Miller to lecture on and sign copies of his new book, “Decision at Toms Brook,” at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Belle Grove Plantation will host the traveling exhibit, “To be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade,” created by the Library of Virginia with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. At 2:30 p.m. a National Park Service ranger will present a program, “Kneading in Silence: A Glimpse into the Life of Judah the Enslaved Cook,” held in the Belle Grove Winter Kitchen.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com