Published On: Wed, Nov 13th, 2013

Long hike kicks off Droop Mountain memorial

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Poet Helena Gondry reads a poem by Louise McNeill Pease during a memorial ceremony at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park on November 6, 2013. The battle occurred 150 years earlier on November 6, 1863. G. Hamill photos

Poet Helena Gondry reads a poem by Louise McNeill Pease during a memorial ceremony at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park on November 6, 2013. The battle occurred 150 years earlier on November 6, 1863. G. Hamill photos

Last Tuesday afternoon, a group of 13 hikers walked north from Lewisburg, re-tracing the steps of Confederate soldiers who marched 150 years earlier.

On November 5, 1863, Confederate Colonel William Jackson sent an urgent message to Brigadier General John Echols. Jackson had established a defensive position on Droop Mountain and a big Union brigade was on its way to attack. Jackson pleaded with Echols to quickly bring his brigade to Droop Mountain, because a Union assault was imminent.

Echols had anticipated such a development and had already started moving his brigade north on the Seneca Trail. After receiving Jackson’s message, Echols marched his brigade the rest of the way to Droop Mountain and arrived on the morning of November 6, to the great joy and relief of Colonel Jackson and his men.

The Union brigade, commanded by Brigadier General William Averell, did not allow the rebels time to rest and recover. Despite the Confederate force’s high morale, Averell’s brigade won a great victory, routing the rebels and forcing them to flee in disarray.

Forty-five Union soldiers and 35 Confederate soldiers were killed outright or died as a result of their wounds.DroopMemorial01sm

Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park Superintendent Mike Smith organized four hikes this summer and fall to walk in the footsteps of Union and Confederate units engaged in the battle. Tuesday’s hike was the fourth and longest hike in the series, covering the same 28 miles that General Echols’ brigade marched on their way to fight at Droop Mountain.

Smith and two Confederate re-enactors were among the group that marched on Tuesday. The group took a short rest every three to four miles, and a support van was available for weary hikers – but most made the trek without vehicular assistance. The weary hikers arrived at the park at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, having completed their expedition in 12-and-a-half hours.

Several hikers completed a 28-mile walk from Lewisburg to Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park on November 5-6 to commemorate the Confederate march over the same route 150 years earlier. The group departed Old Stone Presbyterian Church in Lewisburg at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, roughly the same time Confederate troops departed Lewisburg on November 5, 1863. The hikers completed the march at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. A support van was available for weary hikers, but most of the group completed the hike without vehicular assistance.

Several hikers completed a 28-mile walk from Lewisburg to Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park on November 5-6 to commemorate the Confederate march over the same route 150 years earlier. The group departed Old Stone Presbyterian Church in Lewisburg at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, roughly the same time Confederate troops departed Lewisburg on November 5, 1863. The hikers completed the march at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. A support van was available for weary hikers, but most of the group completed the hike without vehicular assistance.

The following afternoon, Smith hosted a sesquicentennial memorial ceremony at the park. During the event, the superintendent unveiled a stone memorial, bearing the names of the 80 soldiers killed during the battle. A combined Union and Confederate honor guard fired a volley in remembrance of those fallen. Poet Helena Gondry read Louise McNeill Pease’s poem about the battle. Civil War author Terry Lowry talked about the battle. Attendees enjoyed vegetable soup and cornbread.

The new memorial is a 12-foot, elongated slab of sandstone, weighing 7,000 pounds, and pointing to the sky. It was moved to the park from the Greenbrier River Trail, north of Sharp’s Tunnel.

A portion of Pease’s poem reads: “Once on this cool moutain slope, Where grasses green and trees now wave, Brothers were enemies, friends were foes, Who now sleep here in one great, silent grave.”

Geoff Hamill may be contacted at gshamill@pocahontastimes.com

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About the Author

- Geoff Hamill can be contacted at gshamill@pocahontastimes.com