ARARAT, Va. — Sights and sounds of the Civil War will come to Patrick County Saturday and Sunday at the birthplace of Confederate Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart in Ararat just across the state line from Mount Airy.
The 27th-Annual Civil War Encampment and Living History Weekend will feature battle reenactments both days, and an array of educational activities geared toward history buffs and others interested in learning about the 1860s conflict that divided the nation.
Gates open at 9 a.m. on both days.
“We possibly may have more reenactors on site this year than in years past,” said Tom Bishop, a spokesman for the J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace Preservation Trust Inc., the group that stages the annual event.
Bishop explained this week that other reenactments have been cancelled, including a major one at the Cedar Creek Battlefield in Northern Virginia. This has freed up the schedule for those who travel from place to place to don the gray and blue for battle recreations.
“We’re hoping and expecting more reenactors to show up at our site because they didn’t go somewhere else,” Bishop said.
Laurel Hill will host battle recreations Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Uniformed reenactment troops typically depict actual Civil War engagements to showcase the maneuvers and tactics that were used, including musket and artillery fire for realistic effects.
They will be camped out on the grounds, giving the public an idea of how soldiers lived during the war. Attendees also have an opportunity to meet the generals, according to event promotions — individuals who will be portraying key figures from the conflict.
The annual encampment event offers many more attractions than just the battle scenes, with Bishop excited about the special guest speakers who will attend.
The birthplace spokesman specifically mentioned Wayne Jones, a “great” reenactor who has been part of the local event in the past.
“He has reenacted Jeb Stuart, but this year he is portraying Jeb’s brother, William Alexander Stuart,” Bishop said, and will be talking about his role.
William Alexander Stuart ran the salt works at Saltville, Virginia, during the war and his son became a governor of the state.
“He’s an excellent guest,” Bishop said of Jones.
The main speaker on the schedule is H.V. Traywick Jr., who will address the topic “Virginia’s Decision in 1861,” Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and Sunday at 11:45 a.m. at Tent No. 1 on the birthplace grounds.
Martha Jo Price will lead storytelling programs at various intervals throughout the weekend, from Tent No. 2.
Another highlight will be Mark Kinan from Pittsburgh and the Voices of the Confederacy.
They will man teaching tents with various displays, antiques and handouts, designed to engage the public in conversations about the War Between the States. Group members plan to discuss soldier and civilian issues and prisoner of war camps. Infantry, artillery and civilians will be represented, with banjo music (one of Jeb’s favorite instruments) as a special attraction.
“They should really be good,” Bishop said of the Voices of The Confederacy.
Civil War artifacts also will be on display, such as cannonballs, pistols and rifles.
No such gathering would be complete without period music and several performers will fill the bill at Laurel Hill.
They are headlined by Tom Roush, a Civil War musician and singer from Huntington, W.Va., who has been performing and arranging music for about 40 years.
Roush’s repertoire covers most genres, although his first love is 19th-century American music. He performs at various venues including living history events and reenactments, county fairs and schools, sharing his historical knowledge in addition to playing and singing.
Performances by Roush are scheduled Saturday in Tent No. 1 at 10:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Another musical act booked for the event is Mark Kinan and the Acoustic Shadows, who will play Saturday at 2.p.m., 4:15 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., also from Tent No. 1.
On Sunday, Herbert and Tina Conner are scheduled to entertain from that location at 9:30 and 11 a.m.
The role of women in the Civil War always is heavily emphasized during the annual living history weekend and encampment through special events.
These will be highlighted by a ladies fashion show and tea by Joan Williams, with women also to be on site in costume during the weekend.
Other activities will include a Saturday dance at 8 p.m.; candlelight tour; Sunday morning church service directed by the Rev. Allen Farley, a Civil War chaplain; carriage rides; generals’ councils of war; and visits by Stuart family members.
Descendants of Jeb Stuart have appeared at the event in recent years, including a great-great-granddaughter from California and a great-great-great-grandson from Maine.
Authentic Civil War sutlers will be on hand with food and merchandise, along with a number of other vendors.
Gates close Sunday at 4 p.m.
Bishop said good weather is expected this weekend, which should be a huge plus for the outdoor gathering that was cancelled in 2015 due to heavy rains.
Admission will cost $8 per person, but is free for children 12 and under. All proceeds go toward preserving the birthplace.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.