As I drove towards Ararat, Virginia, via Mt. Airy, North Carolina, I found myself filled with anticipation and excitement. I had only visited the birthplace and boyhood home of Major General J.E.B. Stuart on one other occasion. At that time, I was the only person walking the sacred fields of Laurel Hill. My, how it had changed!
As I drove the winding road below the Blue Ridge Parkway my imagination took me back to the days of yesteryear where James Ewell Brown Stuart was born and lived for twelve years. J.E.B. was the great grandson of Major Alexander Stuart, a revolutionary soldier. His father, Archibald Stuart, fought in the War of 1812 and served as a representative in Virginia General Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives. J.E.B. was born into a legacy of service, so it was only natural that he chose a military career. He attended Emory and Henry College at the age of fifteen (1848-1850) and then received an appointment to West Point in1850. In 1852, Robert E. Lee was appointed Superintendent of West Point. There he became acquainted with the Lees and was one of Mrs. Lee’s favorite cadets. He became close friends with Fitzhugh Lee (Robert E. Lee’s nephew). A lasting friendship and connection with the Lee family blossomed. From there his achievements and laurels are recorded in the annuals of history.
Upon entering the open gates of the old homestead plantation land, I was excited to see a large crowd and several reenactors already in attendance. The persona of J.E.B.’s brother, William Alexander Stuart (Wayne Jones), introduced me to those participating and to the audience. I was humbled by the reception. I noted the schedule of events and once again I was impressed. The schedule included a grand review, flag raising ceremony, music by Tom Rosush, and a wondrous presentation by H.V. Traywich on Virginia’s 1861 decision to succeed. A ladies’ tea was held in tent 3 and at 1:15, and a presentation by William Alexander Stuart (Mr. Wayne Jones) was given. At 2 o’clock, Acoustic Shadows of the Blue and Grey performed, followed by a Ladies’ fashion show. The battle (typical of skirmishes and battles of the region) was held to the delight of all. Duly noted was the storytelling by Martha Jo Price. Also noted was carriage rides that were available.
At 3:45, the Black Rose Memorial Service was held at the Stuart Cemetery. A candlelight tour was offered and once again the Acoustic Shadows of the Blue and Grey performed. The dance was held at 8 and for all practical purposes, the day was truly a walk back in time.
Sunday witnessed a very moving church service by my beloved friend, Chaplain Allan Farley. The harmonic abilities of Herbert and Tina Conner heightened the anticipation of Chaplain Farley’s preaching. Three came forward to accept Christ. After the service, Mr. Traywick offered another presentation, followed by the persona of General Lee (Dave Chaltas) speaking of the decision Lee made to follow Virginia. William Alexander shared the stage and offered several answers about General Stuart during the question session. The battle was held at 2 o’clock and was well executed and thrilled the spectators.
Friends, the 27th Annual Civil War Encampment and Living History was a glorious success and it is to be considered a must-see event. You will experience a different time, a different life style and will take with you an appreciation for our American legacy.
I wish to thank the J.E.B. Stuart Preservation Society for inviting me to attend this wondrous event, and I wish to offer my old friend, Andy Shore (portrayer of Lee) the best. For more information about next year’s event, go to www.jebstuart.org, visit www.facebook.com/JEB.Stuart.Trust or write to the Preservation group at P.O. Box 1210 Stuart, Virginia 24171.