Before my actual “On This Day” tour of Second Kernstown, there were numerous events days beforehand. These included “On This Day” tours of The Battle of Cool Spring on July 18th , and The Battle of Rutherford’s Farm on July 20th. These two tours were highly successful with over 150 visitors attending the Cool Spring program! During the same weekend of July 19th and 20th, the Kernstown Battlefield Association held a commemoration event.
I traveled to Kernstown for these two days to promote the park and; the park’s special events coming up this summer and fall. I handed out numerous brochures, program calendars, special event information and fielded questions from the visitors. During this two day event, the Kernstown Battlefield Association held numerous activities for visitors. These included living history demonstrations, battlefield walks, guided house tours of the Pritchard-Grim House and artillery firings to name a few. I even ran into a friend and former professor of mine, Julie, who was interpreting Valley civilian life. On Sunday, I presented a program to visitors. This program, “The 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign in a Box” used cones, ropes, blocks and other props to create the Shenandoah Valley. It is designed to be an overview of the military actions in the Shenandoah Valley from New Market to Cedar Creek. In 30 minutes, I literally walk through the campaign using the map as a learning device for the visitors. Folks tend to really enjoy this method. Nearly 30 people were in attendance when I presented this program. As the weekend began to die down, I was encouraging visitors to come back for my “On This Day” tour later in the week.
On July 24th, I once again traveled to the Kernstown Battlefield to present my “On This Day” battlefield program of the Battle of Second Kernstown. I was hoping with the success of the previous two events, (Cool Spring and Rutherford’s Farm) I would have a large crowd. I arrived around 3:15 just as the first visitors began to show up. After doing so much research and preparations leading up to this moment, I was excited to see the cars begin to roll in. When I began, I had nearly 45 people for the program. Considering this was a Thursday afternoon at 4:00 with the threat of rain, I was happy to see the turn out.
The tour began near the Visitor Center. I welcomed visitors, introduced myself and asked Gary Crawford, the Kernstown Battlefield Association’s President to make a few remarks. He spoke eloquently on the history of the Association and how they came to preserve the land. Following his comments, I utilized the time at this stop to discuss the Valley during the Civil War. I spoke briefly on its strategic importance and oriented visitors to the actions leading up to the battle proper. My interpretive strategy for my program was to focus on orientation, information and interpretation in this order. At the beginning of each stop, I oriented visitors to where we are in the battlefield and what direction(s) we are facing. I would then give some information and then spend most of my time interpreting the battle. I find this process immensely successful when traveling to battlefields myself.
The second stop of my tour continued as I led visitors to the crest of Pritchard’s Hill. When we all arrived to the top, I then dived into the Confederate and Union strategies at the begging of the battle. To read more about this and the development of the battle, read my post on Emerging Civil War. The tour continued with the group descending Pritchard’s Hill and moving towards the Opequon Church. One of the great things about this tour was we got to walk in the footsteps of these soldiers exactly 150 years following the battle. We were traversing the same ground in the same direction that Union soldiers would have during the battle. Visitors found this extremely powerful. We arrived near the Opequon Church and discussed the Confederate offensive and withdrawal of the Union lines. As we traveled to our next stop along a stonewall, we were once again following the same route, in the same direction Union soldiers were during the battle.
At the stonewall, I discussed the death of Col. Mulligan of the 23rd IL, the Confederate flank attack the conclusion of the battle. The final stop of the tour was in the front lawn of the Prichard-Grim House. There, I concluded the tour with a discussion of the battle’s aftermath, both immediate and long term for Valley citizens and soldiers alike. After a short question and answer, volunteers from the Association guided visitors through the Pritchard-Grim House.
All in all, I came away feeling extremely satisfied. Interpretively, material flowed easily from stop to stop, visitors did not seem confused, (based on my perception) and I was able to answer questions confidently. It was also nice to see such a great turnout for these types of events. I hope as we near the 150th of Cedar Creek the excitement and interest of the Civil War will drive folks to visit the park and our events. Keep an eye out as the park finalizes our schedule for the weekend of October 17th-19th.