McDowell Battlefield Day Returns for a Full Day of Living Civil War History


It’s been nearly 155 years since Federal and Confederate Soldiers clashed at The Battle of McDowell, and it’s been five years since there has been a reenactment of the event in Highland County.  McDowell Battlefield Day returns on Saturday, May 6th for a full day of living Civil War history.  Folks in attendance will get to experience medical, military and civilian life demonstrations, hear from guest speakers and authors and more.  The battle itself will feature reenactors play-acting in first person to let those in attendance witness an event similar to what originally occurred.  Folks will be arriving in McDowell on Friday, May 5th for early events, and camp fires will be burning in to the cool night as folks prepare to go back to 1862.

Resident Jim White attended the first McDowell Battlefield Reenactment, and he explains more about what the public can expect.  He says, “You’ll find this year that most of it is going to revolve around town, where in some years, we had camps that were farther away, and the way to get there was wagons, but this year, they wanted to bring it back in to town.  There will be a lot to do.  There will be several hundred reenactors, some civilian, mostly will be military reenactors representing the armies involved, and the civilians will be portraying people in McDowell and what it was like to have your town occupied by an army from outside of your area like Northerners in a southern town.  We really don’t have a clue what it was like because none of us are old enough, but we don’t have a clue to know what it was like to be from the North or the South and to leave your home and go and combat, and in the beginning, many of the people from the North thought this was a great adventure.  They got off the farm, and they had to go far away from home, so they didn’t see the works; they didn’t have to do that.  Little did they know.”

A natural question that can come up when hearing about this type of reenactment is: why do people do this?  Mr. White responds by saying, “Part of its intention is to have people wear the shoes of people back then and to see the horrors of it firsthand, which you can’t get in a movie, and you can’t get from reading a book.  This is not designed to glorify war.  War is something to avoid at all costs, but if we didn’t have wars, we wouldn’t become America.  People fought for our freedom; it’s never been free, and the Civil War defined us as a nation because it was our own people fighting against our own people.  In some areas, family members would be fighting against each other because sometimes you went with your friend who signed up and your brother didn’t, so those are hard things to understand.  It’s lots of life.  You don’t really get it all with your eyes.  You feel it where your shoes and where you’ve been, so you bring your own history to whatever you’re viewing, and the reenactors know that war is horrible.  They want to portray the life that they went through in terms of preparation and training and sacrifices they had to make.”

In addition, students will visit McDowell on Friday, and more events will be held Sunday, and the event is the major fundraiser for the Highland Historical Society.  To learn more, interested parties can visit or contact the Highland Historical Society at 540-393-4478 or was used as a reference for this story.

Story By

Chris Swecker

is the Assistant Station Coordinator and a News Reporter for WVLS. He has roots in Highland County going back several generations, and he grew up in Monterey. Since graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, he has pursued his career at a news station and advertising agency in Virginia, on Microsoft’s campus in the state of Washington, and in both states as sole owner and employee of a video production company. He enjoys exploring life with his wife, Jessa Fowler, traveling, hiking, hunting, gardening, and trying new foods, all while discovering more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He feels blessed to be a small part of this talented AMR team to help give back to the community that has provided him with so much.

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