PHILIPPI — The quiet streets of Philippi will come alive with the sound of reverberating cannons, marching troops and Civil War era tunes.
The 23rd annual Blue and Gray Reunion starts Thursday and runs through June 3 as the re-enactment of the first land battle of the Civil War is observed.
The reunion activities will begin with the Blue and Gray Choir at the the courthouse gazebo at 1 p.m. Thursday, followed at 6:30 p.m. by a gospel sing. The Blue and Gray Choir concert will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at Crim Memorial United Methodist Church.
“The choir concert is always a spectacular event,” volunteer Doretta Brown said. “We have around 50 people participate. They are not all community people; some come from as far away as Charleston. The choir sings traditional Civil War music, some gospel and some modern music. Our director is Dr. Judson Bracey, from Alderson-Broaddus College, and our pianist is Michele Moore.”
Kid’s Day at the Reunion, set for 8:45 a.m. Friday, will be smaller this year, according to chairman Terry Wilfong.
“Schools closed early this year because there were no snow days,” he said. “We have had as many as 1,000 to 1,500 fourth- and fifth-graders. This year, we are expecting only about 400.”
Thirty-five stations are set up for the students, according to Wilfong. These are tents that contain, among other subjects, demonstrations about what the soldiers ate, bullet-making, camp life, cooking, cannon firing, small arms and court hearings.
Re-enactors, Confederate and Union, will set up their camps Friday. These camps will open to the public 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.
There will be a parade on Friday, with the line-up starting at 6:30 p.m. at Subway. The parade will start at 7:30 p.m. under the auspices of the Philippi Fire Department. The parade will be followed by fireworks at 10 p.m.
One of the more colorful events is the re-enactors night skirmish at 11 p.m. Saturday.
“They fire the cannons down by the bridge,” Wilfong said. “This is a memorable display. They put coal dust and steel wool in the cannons, and it looks like fire coming out of them. It is really something to see.”
There will be artillery demonstrations at 11 a.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday, according to Brown.
“These demonstrations will show spectators how many steps there are to loading the cannon before it is fired,” she said.
The re-enactment of the hanger amputation will take place on Saturday at 2:15 p.m., Saturday at 9 p.m. (candlelight) and Sunday immediately after the battle. This re-enactment includes a discussion and display of commonly used medical practices during the Civil War.
The display will include a federal doctor’s field kit, reproduction medical supplies, commonly used herbal remedies, photos and other medical artifacts.
“This was the first amputation where a prosthetic device was made,” Wilfong said. “This first prosthetic devise was made at the Baptist church. The man who had his leg removed started a company that is now located in California and Florida. They are the largest prosthetic manufacturers in the world.”
The amputation re-enactment is “extremely real,” according to Brown.
“If you have a weak stomach, bring your smelling salts,” she said.
The Civil War Ball will be held at 8 p.m. on the courthouse lawn. Music will be played by Acoustic Shadows.
“The Civil War ball is beautiful,” said Brown, “especially if it is held outside. We have to move it into the gymnasium if it rains. The women are so beautiful in their dresses and the soldiers in their uniforms. It is really breathtaking. And a lot of fun. You don’t have to be dressed to participate.”
There is also a traditional 1800-style church service Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Presbyterian church.
The re-enactment of the Civil War’s first land battle will take place Sunday at 2 p.m.
“This battle is known as the ‘Philippi Races’ because the Confederate forces under the command of Col. Porterfield made such a hurried retreat to evade capture by the Union forces under the command of Col. Dummont and Col. Kelley. The battle left the B&O Railroad clear to carry supplies and troops for the Union.
“Usually battles are always done on a farm away from a normal battlefield,” Brown said. “The Battle of Philippi took place right on the main street. That is where we stage the re-enactment, because that is where it actually took place. We will have an authentic Civil War cannon this year that is being brought in from Ohio.”
There will be 12 food vendors and 40 to 45 crafters on the courthouse lawn from 1 p.m. on Friday, from 9 a.m. Saturday, and from noon on Sunday.
A full schedule of events for the Blue and Gray Reunion is available at www.blueandgrayreunion.org, at (304) 457-4265, (304) 457-2368 or (304) 457-5183.