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Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park / Photo courtesy of


A Campaign of Firsts: Western Virginia in 1861

May 30-June 3, 2018

A BGES Civil War Field University Program

]In the days after Abraham Lincoln’s election, the United States split into sections, with the Deep South seceding from the Union before the March 1861 inauguration. Upper South states such as Maryland, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia, among others, remained loyal. Within the states debate raged. Areas that were not dependent on slave labor had little to no interest in the secession debate. In Virginia, in particular, the western part of the state had much more in common with the Ohio Valley than it did with the Old Dominion of the Revolutionary era.

Not surprisingly, early encounters pitted soldiers and neighbors against each other. Early fighting in the war took place in western Virginia, but as the armies and strategic targets came into focus, the newly created state of West Virginia was soon a backwater absent any decisive or important battles. Perhaps it is because of this that Civil War tours in West Virginia are few and far between. Indeed, as the BGES enters its 25th year, this is our very first tour devoted to West Virginia. Having said that, the sites are very dramatic, and for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, no battles were harder fought than those we will cover on this study.

This is a tour of firsts—our first in West Virginia, and many of the events were firsts in the Civil War. The scenery is dramatic, the military terrain challenging, and the combat deadly. Join us for this singular program offered for the very first time by the popular team of Gary Ecelbarger and Scott Patchan.


Gary Ecelbarger and Scott Patchan have not only been good friends in Northern Virginia since they were both in their twenties, they have been touring partners for over 20 years and have conducted Civil War and Revolutionary War tours for the past 13 years. Together they have authored or co-authored nearly 20 books and dozens of articles on 19th-century topics; both are culling research for future works relating to the 18th-century Revolutionary War Philadelphia campaign.