Three hikes are scheduled at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park in Pocahontas County to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle that occurred there Nov. 6, 1863.
Park Superintendent Mike Smith has scheduled the hikes to follow the routes that soldiers coursed on their way to that conflict. The first of four scheduled hikes took place June 22, a 9-mile retracing of the steps of the 10th West Virginia Infantry and the 28th Infantry, during which descendants of Droop Mountain battle soldiers walked, talked and shared Civil War history.
The three remaining Droop Mountain Battle memorial hikes are scheduled for July 20 (4 miles), Aug. 31 (3 miles), and Nov. 5, a 30-mile overnight hike that concludes at Droop Mountain on Nov. 6. Advance registration is required. Download preregistration forms to hike as a participant in a 150th Memorial Hike, at www.droopmountainbattlefield.com or email Michael.A.Smith@wv.gov. Calls regarding the hikes should be made during the daytime at 304-653-4254; please leave a short message if a recording is received.
Registrations for the July 20 hike are still being accepted. One registrant is a descendant who will be traveling from Florida. Mounted infantry was a temporary designation for several of Gen. William Averell's regiments. When Averell was transferred to western Virginia in May 1863, he was put in command of mostly infantry units, foot soldiers, but he was a cavalry commander, and would be facing mostly Confederate cavalry troops.
The enemy could move from place to place more quickly on horseback, so Averell secured mounts for most of his men and began training them in cavalry tactics, in order to better counter his opponents. The Union troops could move from place to place more quickly, then dismount and fight on foot as regular infantry.
This hike will be along the attack route of the 2nd and the 3rd West Virginia Mounted Infantry. Those same units in 1864 were reorganized and the men re-enlisted in the 5th and the 6th West Virginia Cavalry. There will be no horses on any of the hikes, as the terrain is no more suitable for horses today than it was 150 years ago.
- Aug. 31 - 8th West Virginia Mounted Infantry Memorial Hike
At least eight descendants of men in the 8th West Virginia Mounted Infantry - later the 7th West Virginia Cavalry - have already signed up for this hike. Two of those are from Ohio and one is from Colorado. This is our shortest mileage of the four memorial hikes. Preregistration is required and the form is available on the park website at, www.droopmountainbattlefield.com.
- Aug. 31- Sept. 1 - The Battle at Droop Mountain Re-enactment
The West Virginia Re-enactors Association invites the public to attend the 150th Anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Droop Mountain scheduled Aug. 31-Sept. 1. The original battle, fought on Nov. 6, 1863, pitted General John Echols' Confederates controlling the Greenbrier Valley against General William Averell's Federals advancing from the north.
A welcome social will be held on Friday evening in the park shop building. Coffee and refreshments will be served along with Civil War videos and a warm fire if the weather is cold. Civilian activities will center on a social to be held near the Union camp during the tactical. Saturday evening will feature the Droop Mountain Open Air Ball and Young Ladies' Cotillion.
Period music and dance instruction will be provided, with a special opportunity for a "coming out" presentation for young ladies. On Sunday morning, an authentic church service will be held at the overlook near the Confederate camp.
- Nov. 5-6, 2013 - Echols' Brigade, Confederate Army of Southwestern Virginia Memorial Hike
Three people have firmly committed to the all-night, 30-mile. The starting point is near Lewisburg, and participants will hike along U.S. Route 219 for approximately 27 miles, mostly at night, with 1,000-foot elevation change and moderate grades. The hike will begin in the afternoon with a two-hour break from midnight to 2 a.m., then continue through the night to arrive at the park near dawn as did the Confederate Army of Gen. John Echols prior to the battle at Droop Mountain.
A support vehicle with food, first aid supplies and a portable restroom will be provided. Should anyone become physically or mentally exhausted, the support vehicle will also be available to allow those participants to sag out for a rest (or entirely) if they need to do so. This will be an extremely rigorous hike, mostly at night, along a public road on a weekday in November when the weather could easily be quite miserable. It is not intended for the faint of heart, and registrants are requested to obtain a doctor's statement that they are physically fit for a 30-mile trek.
After arrival at Droop Mountain Battlefield, a second extended rest period is scheduled, to be followed by a public dedication of a monument and reading of names of battle casualties in the early afternoon. Because much of this hike will be at night and along a major highway, reflective arm bands provided by park will be worn by all participants. Other safety measures may also be required.
Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park is located in Pocahontas County in West Virginia. The park address is Hillsboro. It is a day-use park steeped in history of the Civil War and of the Civilian Conservation Corps contribution to the development of the state park system in the early 1930s.