Prior to Union and Confederate soldiers laying siege to Philippi this weekend as part of the annual Blue & Gray Reunion, more than 600 elementary school students invaded the town on Friday as part of Kids Day.
Elementary school students from several surrounding counties participated in the event including Barbour, Preston, Monongalia and Taylor. More than 30 different stations were set up for the children to learn about various aspects of the Civil War and the heritage of Philippi.
Barbour County Commission President Phil Hart said the annual event helps educate children about the history of Barbour County, while bringing the community closer together and stimulating the economy.
(CU and The Inter-Mountain/Ben Simmons)
LIVING HISTORY — Clockwise from top photo, re-enactors Kevin Lilley, Lindsey Bracy, Addie Blankenship and Patrick Johnson dress in clothing from the period to demonstrate what folks looked like during the Civil War. Preston County third-grader Blane Sigley and his mother, Billie, examine toy guns at a vendor’s booth. Art Dodds provided a bull whip demonstration for the students Friday morning. More than 600 elementary school students participated in Kids Day activities at the Blue & Gray Reunion. Participating counties included Barbour, Preston, Monongalia and Taylor. View additional photos at www.theintermountain.com.
"The Blue & Gray Reunion is a great asset to Barbour County," Hart said. "It promotes the history of our county. It also brings in a lot of tourists, which helps put a lot of money into the local economy. It just brings everybody in the community together.
"One great event of this is the Kids Day. The kids get to see the different parts of history. They get to see the courthouse and hear about the history behind the Civil War. So many times there are kids that don't get to participate in an event like this, but with the school systems coming from various counties throughout northcentral West Virginia, the kids have the opportunity to be here and learn about history," Hart said.
The entire city of Philippi was lined with kids Friday morning. And each and every one had a smile on their face. They seemed to be enjoying the food, friendship and fun.
Belington Elementary School teacher Donna Phillips said her students enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the county's role in the Civil War.
"This is a wonderful educational opportunity where the kids can come and visit living history and match up with the things we have been studying in our social studies text book," Phillips said. "Belington Elementary School has been coming here for 18 years, since the beginning of Kids Day, and we've never been disappointed."
Belington Elementary School fifth-grade students Tristan Arbogast and Tyler Miller said they learned a lot about Civil War history by participating in Kids Day.
"This was not only fun, but educational," Arbogast said. "It helped us in social studies. We just learned about someone who spied and she was helpful to the Confederates. She had a special tool to help her talk back and forth with who was helping her, while she was in jail for getting caught spying."
"It was really fun," Miller added. "We learned a lot. It's not like just learning regular stuff at school, having the people teach us first hand is really fun."
Several different stations were set up throughout the town to give kids a hands-on experience as to what life was like in 1861. Many re-enactors wore clothing from the period to demonstrate what folks dressed like during the Civil War.
Patrick Johnson, of Pennsylvania, has been participating in the Blue and Gray Reunion activities for the past seven years.
"It's a lot of fun, but it takes a bit of work to get it going," Johnson said. "It feels good to know the work pays off and know we did a good job. It's nice we have the re-enactment right were the battle occurred, even if the scenery is much more modern.
"Kids Day is my favorite part, because you get to explain to the kids what's going on and why we are here. Rather than just seeing the battle, they get to learn the history," Johnson said.
One station was set up in the Barbour County Courthouse Courtroom. At that exhibit, students were treated to a mock court session that examined why the Virginia forces retreated at Philippi. The actual court inquiry took place at the courthouse in Beverly on June 20, 1861.
Aside from all the historical information stations, several vendors and food stands were set up. Several craft items including instruments, clothing from the period and various other odds and ends could be found.
The Blue & Gray Reunion continues throughout the weekend in Philippi. Highlights for Saturday include: A Little Soldiers Battle, in which children of the reenactors perform their own rendition of the event, at 10 a.m.; a scaled down version of the skirmish will begin near the bridge area at 1 p.m.; a Civil War Ball will be on the courthouse lawn at 8 p.m.; and a "night skirmish" will cap the day off 11 p.m.
Sunday will open with an 1800s-style church service at 10 a.m. at the Presbyterian Church. A full re-enactment of the first land battle is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at the Philippi Covered Bridge.