ARARAT, Va. — A bit of local Civil War history will be on display Saturday at Laurel Hill in Ararat, including someone greatly resembling the man born there in 1833, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart.
While Stuart himself won’t be on hand for Laurel Hill Day, perhaps the next-best-thing will be in the form of Wayne Jones, a J.E.B. Stuart impersonator. His appearance at the birthplace will be one of the highlights of the event open to the public, also to include free food, music and activities honoring the war hero on the 150th anniversary of his death in 1864.
Jones is described as probably the most realistic re-enactor of a Civil War figure the J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace Trust has encountered, according to Tom Bishop, a member of that organization’s governing board.
But the Stuart lookalike won’t be the only attraction for Laurel Hill Day, to begin at 10 a.m at the birthplace just across the state line in Patrick County. “We’ve got a couple of important visitors who are going to be there,” said Bishop, also mentioning author Robert Trout.
Trout has written several J.E.B. Stuart books, including, “They Followed the Plume,” “Memoirs of the Stuart Horse Artillery Battalion” and “With Pen and Saber.” “He is a very notable author,” Bishop said.
“We’re hoping to have some Stuart family members there,” he added.
While Laurel Hill is a venue for annual Civil War re-enactments and encampments, the emphasis for Laurel Hill Day is a little different.
“This is sort of like a special event — we did not do the Highland Games this year,” Bishop said of another annual gathering on the birthplace grounds.
“It won’t be a Civil War re-enactment,” he explained of Laurel Hill Day, which is geared toward longtime supporters of the birthplace trust’s mission. The group also is seeking to reach out to others with an interest in learning more about the site and the educational role it serves.
“We have done this kind of thing in the past,” Bishop said of Laurel Hill Day, “but it’s been several years.”
In addition to food, fellowship, special guest speakers and musical entertainment by Herbert and Tina Conner and the Lone Ivy String Band, birthplace tours are planned during the event offering admission free of charge.
“We will also have a special museum and Civil War artifact display and will sell gift items such as books, prints, mugs, T-shirts and much more,” Bishop added. “This should be both an educational and entertaining event.”
Organizers are asking anyone planning to attend to email those intentions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (276) 251-1833 or (276) 694-6429. Bishop said this will allow an idea of how much food to have on hand.
Laurel Hill is located at 1091 Ararat Highway, Ararat, Va., accessible from Mount Airy via N.C. 104.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.