The Times West Virginian

Local News

March 25, 2013

‘It’s living history’

Annual event pays tribute to first battle of Civil War

FAIRMONT — There was one battle that started the Civil War in the U.S., and that battle started in West Virginia.

On June 3, 1861, the first battle of the Civil War took place in Philippi. That battle is known as the Philippi Races. The battle is re-enacted every year and goes by the name of the Blue Gray Reunion.

Edgar Brown, a re-enactor in the Blue Gray Reunion, said the battle took place at 4 a.m. in the pouring rain and was for control of the Philippi Covered Bridge.

“The bridge served both the North and the South with supplies and things like that,” Brown said.

The battle was called the Philippi Races because it was so brief. Brown said the Union had a plan to trap Confederate soldiers in Philippi but failed to stop them and the Confederates escaped.

“The Union didn’t cut off the Confederate troops like they wanted to,” he said. “So the Confederate troops escaped up to Beverly and fell in with other troops in that area.”

Brown said the battle took no longer than 30 minutes. The Union was stationed on the hill where Alderson-Broaddus College is now located and opened fire on the Confederate soldiers.

“The Confederates just left everything that they had and went out of town,” Brown said. “That’s why it’s called the Philippi Races.”

Now with the Union in control of the covered bridge, those soldiers were able to cut off supplies to the South.

Brown said the brief battle was significant to the start of the Civil War.

 

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