Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park is giving visitors an opportunity this fall to "walk in the footsteps" of Civil War soldiers.
The Battle of Droop Mountain occurred on Nov. 6, 1863. On Nov. 6, 2013, 150 years ago to the date and time, a group of individuals will arrive at the battlefield after an overnight hike that commemorates the route taken by Echols' Brigade, Confederate Army of Southwestern Virginia. The hike begins in Lewisburg on Nov. 5. It will be a 30-mile route, overnight, and will test the hike registrants who will repeat history's footsteps.
Mike Smith, park superintendent at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park in Pocahontas County, has designed and coordinated a memorial hike to honor not only West Virginia's 150th birthday, but also to pay tribute to the men and families of both sides the Civil War that ultimately contributed to the creation of West Virginia as the 35th state.
"Two hikers from Braxton County had three ancestors, all brothers, in the Union army, and believe that Federal soldiers walked to and from Lewisburg just like the Confederates," Smith said. "So, even though (the hike) is listed as a Confederate route, Union supporters are very much welcomed and appreciated. We are all West Virginians remembering the footsteps of all soldiers."
An additional tribute is planned at Droop Mountain. A ceremony placing a native stone marker with a bronze placard listing known men who died or died as a result of wounds that occurred at the Battle of Droop Mountain will occur around 2 p.m. after the memorial hike arrives at the state park. Smith will install the bronze on a near-perfect natural obelisk and flat feature stone of approximately 4 x 6 feet. The soldiers' memorial will become one of many markers erected at Droop Mountain identifying battle history and individuals.
The West Virginia State Park Foundation is accepting donations to be used to offset the memorial cost. Donations can be mailed to: Robert Hoke, WVSPF Treasurer, 6304 Kaybro St., Laurel, MD 20707, and should indicate it is for the Droop Mountain Memorial. Donations received are acknowledged in writing. Any amount donated is appreciated.
The West Virginia State Park Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation formed to solicit, receive and accept contributions, gifts, grants, and bequests of real or personal property in support of the West Virginia State Park system. Contributions and donations considered tax-deductible gifts.
The start point for the hike is near Lewisburg. This will be a 27-mile walk along U.S. Rt. 219, mostly at night, with a 1,000 feet elevation change and moderate grades. The hike will begin in the afternoon, with a two hour break from midnight to 2 a.m., and then continuing through the night to arrive at the park near dawn as did the Confederate brigade of Gen. John Echols prior to the battle at Droop Mountain.
This will be an extremely rigorous hike, mostly at night, on a weekday in November when weather conditions can be unpredictable. It is not intended for the faint-of-heart and registrants are requested to obtain a doctor's statement that they are physically fit for a 30-mile trek. After arrival at Droop Mountain Battlefield, a second extended rest period is scheduled, to be followed by a public dedication of a monument and reading of names of battle casualties in the early afternoon.