On May 28, 1861, Col. George Porterfield and his Confederate troops arrived in Philippi,
where they camped or were quartered in town. Neighbors and families were already divided
on the question of secession. There were at least 750, if not upwards of 2,000 troops.
At daylight on June 3, two columns of Union forces, with perhaps 3,000 men, arrived from
Grafton under the command of Col. Ebenezer Dumont and Col. Benjamin Kelley. |
Mistaking a pistol shot by a Mrs. Humpreys on the hill above the town as a signal to start the battle, the Union troops fired on the Confederates with two brass six-pound Napoleon cannons. The Confederates routed to a big rock south of town and departed in good order to Belington and ultimately to Beverly.
When Col. Porterfield arrived in Grafton by train from Harpers Ferry on May 14, 1861, he had
been ordered by Gen. Robert E. Lee., the Commander of the Provisional Army of Virginia, to
recruit troops in the northwestern counties of Virginia. He was happy to find that a Philippi
attorney, Thomas Bedford, had organized a company of 42 men called "The Barbour Grays." |
These new recruits were almost totally without proper equipment: their weapons were brought from home, they had no tents, no supplies, and no training. Porterfield, a graduate of Virginia Military Institute, reported to Lee that, "the men couldn't even keep in step and the ones drilling the men were even more ignorant than the men." Two companies of the Barbour Grays were part of the command that relocated to the south on June 3, 1861. Later, they were made Company H of the 31st Virginia Regiment.
On June 3, 1911 the first "Home Coming Week" ever held in Barbour County of the "Blue and Gray Soldiers" who participated in the 1861 battle was held. The program included speeches, band concerts, "public talks by Old Soldiers", entertainment, fireworks, parachute jumps, parades, a hot-air balloon ascension, and a "Sham Battle conducted by the State Militia." In 1988, the City of Philippi published a "Call to Arms" to plan for an annual Blue & Gray Reunion to begin the first week of June, 1989.
Today's reunion includes Sutlers and crafts tents, a parade, encampments for re-enactors from both sides of the war, artillery and small arms demonstrations, a choir concert, Civil War Ball, and of course, a re-enactment of the first land battle of the Civil War.