Guyandotte Civil War Days approaching
HUNTINGTON — On a normal day, fourth-grade teacher Jeannie Wray instructs 17 children.
On Friday, that number balloons to more than 500 and she wouldn't have it any other way.
Friday's School Day, which is expected to draw more than 500 students to enjoy living history presentations on many aspects of the Civil War, is just one of the many highlights during the upcoming 23rd annual Guyandotte Civil War Days, "Thunder in the Village," which honors the 151st anniversary of the November raid on historic Guyandotte as the region was being ripped apart during the Civil War.
For the past three years, Wray, a Martha Elementary School teacher, has served as the president of Civil War Days, which thunders into the historic neighborhood this week with a special event at the library, three days of lectures, followed by a weekend of war.
More than 300 re-enactors from around the country and thousands of spectators are expected to enjoy the heart of the Civil War re-enactment set for Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3 and 4.
The battle re-enactments are set for 1 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday (although Sunday also has two scenarios starting at 1 p.m.)
Camps are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
A veteran Civil War re-enactor who has been a part of Guyandotte Civil War Days for 13 years, Wray said she is proud of the fact that School Day has grown from about 80 or 90 students to in excess of 500 last year.
"In five years we have grown quite a bit and we are looking forward to that many this year," Wray said. "As a re-enactor I have always felt that this is the most amazing teaching that we get to take those flat words on a page and we get to bring them to life. It makes it that much more meaningful and enjoyable for the kids."
Wray said a change in West Virginia schools toward a Common Core Curriculum has caused a deeper examination for fifth graders of the historical period surrounding the Civil War.
And especially with West Virginia set to celebrate its sesquicentennial in 2013, this is a great time to come and learn first hand about the state's violent and unique birth as the only state carved from the Civil War.
"To me it is the great untold story of the Civil War," Wray said of West Virginia's rocky road to statehood. "There are amazing movies and TV shows out there concerning the Civil War but the birth of West Virginia is not included in any of that. It is an amazing story within itself. I think that is critical for the kids to know where the state came from. We were forged right in the middle of the conflict."
Thankfully, you don't just have to be a fifth grader to get to dig into Civil War history this week in Guyandotte.
Wray is super excited about a new exhibit that can be seen this year only at Civil War Days.
The Guyandotte Public Library, 203 Richmond St., received a grant from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History & National Endowment for the Humanities to host "Civil War 150," a national traveling exhibit that only has 50 stops throughout the U.S.
Divided into five panels: The Nation Divides, 1861: The Union is Dissolved, The Cruel War, 1863: Turning Point, and The Price of Victory (1864-1865), the exhibit helps you experience the war through the eyes of major political figures, soldiers, families and freedmen.
By virtue of letters, personal accounts and images, learn how people grappled with the end of slavery, the nature of democracy and citizenship, the human toll of civil war, and the role of a president in wartime.
The library will open the exhibit, which will be on display through Nov. 17, with a special reception at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, with live Civil War music by father and son duo, Keith and Michael Garvin. The United Daughters of the Confederacy, Border Rangers, Chapter 2580, is hosting the reception.
Local scholar and author, Jack Dickinson will speak at 7 p.m. on "Guyandotte, 1775-1875; a Century of History."
Librarian Priscilla Marten said they received the exhibit as well as a $1,000 grant to help pay for programming to enhance the public's experience seeing this rare exhibit.
In addition to the exhibit, the library will also host its annual book sale during Civil War Days. That runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.
The library is also the gathering spot for Huntington Paranormal's -Haunted & Historic Guyandotte Tours. Those about 1-hour and 45 minute-long walking tours leave the library from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. You can get the free tickets starting at 6 p.m. each night.
Marten said they are really excited for the exhibit and Civil War Days when the community comes together.
"I think we are just glad to be a part of such a big event that attracts so many people from out of town," Marten said. "The community really shines during that time and we want to be a part of it and we want to support it in any way. That's why we always have the book sale then. We get so many people who say I've never been here. With the exhibit, it may be a one-year deal, but we think it will get a lot more people into see the library."
In addition to the Civil War 150 exhibit, the education continues at 7 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, Oct. 31 - Nov. 2 as the Guyandotte Baptist Church hosts the Civil War Days lecture series.
Guyandotte resident John Belcher, who has restored one of the stately 1800s-era homes in the neighborhood, will perform as Gen. Albert Gallatin Jenkins and will speak on Wednesday. Al Stone will speak on Thursday as Gen. Robert E. Lee. On Friday, Stan Clardy will perform his one-man play, "Soldiers in Gray: A Musical Journey, A Soldier's Life through the War."
Whether it is Clardy's tear-jerking one-man play or Stone and Belcher's impeccable portrayals of generals, Wray said the lecture series helps tell a deeper story of how the Civil War shaped the region.
"So many people think this just happened in November 1861 and that they battled, burned down the town, took prisoners and that was it, but there was so much more building before that," Wray said. "There was a town meeting in April 1861 in which these attitudes were building and during a town meeting a steamer, the Boston arrived and they announced that Virginia was seceding and the meeting went nuts. So there was much more going on than just the battle which literally tore friendships apart, destroyed businesses and partnerships. Through the lecture series we are able to work in a little more of that."
Although Wray, who has ancestors who fought for both the North and the South, has deep family ties to the Civil War, she said that everyone is invited to come and roam around at the free living history weekend that is centered around some of the neighborhood's historic homes such as the Madie Carroll House. It was added to the national Civil War Trails just last year.
Wray, who went to the 149th anniversary of Gettysburg this summer and just came back from the 150th anniversary of Antietam, said Guyandotte is special, too, because these are the streets and the actual places where the history happened -- from the Madie Carroll House to the Baptist Church, which still has the government reparation papers to rebuild after the burning.
"I encourage everyone to learn how we came to be and to learn what this event did to the town of Guyandotte that was here before Huntington and what the burning of these businesses and the homes did for the area," Wray said. "It truly never completely recovered from it. Whether you are a history buff or whether just live in the area and are not aware, come on down. We'd love to show you around and have you take a tour of the Madie Carroll House. That's a very important story. That is one of the scenarios we do at the end of the battle on Sunday. We would not have this amazing piece of history had Mrs. Carroll, who was there with her ailing husband and kids, would not have stood up to those Union soldiers to protect her home. Everyone should come out and learn the history -- it belongs to all of us."
Here's a look at the schedule for "Thunder In the Village," the 23rd annual Guyandotte Civil War Days, that re-enacts the Nov. 10, 1861 raid on Guyandotte. Go online at www.guyandottecivilwardays.com for more information.
Tuesday, Oct. 30
5:30 to 7 p.m. -- Opening reception for "Civil War 150" a traveling exhibition at the Guyandotte Public Library, 203 Richmond St. Huntington, with live Civil War music by father/son duo Keith and Michael Garvin and local scholar and author, Jack Dickinson speaks at 7 p.m. on "Guyandotte, 1775-1875; a Century of History"
Wednesday, Oct. 31
7 p.m. -- Lecture Series: John Belcher as Gen. Albert Gallatin Jenkins (Guyandotte Baptist Church)
Thursday, Nov. 1
7 p.m. -- Lecture Series: Al Stone will speak as Gen. Robert E. Lee (Guyandotte Baptist Church)
Friday, Nov. 2
8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. -- School Program with tours of camps and sutlers doing first-person living history demonstrations
7 p.m. -- Lecture Series: Stan Clardy will perform his one-man play, "Soldiers in Gray: A Musical Journey, A Soldier's Life through the War" (Guyandotte Baptist Church)
7 to 10 p.m. -- Haunted History Tours (Guyandotte Library)
Saturday, Nov. 3
9:30 a.m. -- Opening ceremonies (VFW Post 9738)
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Camps open to public
12:45 p.m. -- Merchant scenario
1 p.m. -- Battle
2 p.m. -- Stan Clardy (Bobby Lee Opossum special for kids)
3 p.m. -- Meet the Generals (Keenan House)
Noon to 4 p.m. -- historic Madie Carroll House open for tours
7 to 10 p.m. -- Haunted History Tours (Guyandotte Library)
Sunday, Nov. 4
10 a.m. -- Memorial Service (VFW)
11 a.m. -- Church Service (VFW)
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. -- Camps open to public
1 p.m. -- Scenarios - Marching Soldiers then the Court Martial at 1:30 p.m.
2 p.m. -- Battle
3 p.m. -- Attempted burning of the Carroll House