March 24, 2011
Civil War Weekend kicks off Friday (Video)
Lawrence Pierce
MAry Todd Lincoln, played by Civil War re-enactor Joyce Browning of Charleston, has just finished berating Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, calling him an inept military commander and a drunk. Grant, played by Barry Meadows, also of Charleston, attempts to defend his good name from the first lady's piercing accusations.

West Virginia Encyclopedia


CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Confederate Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson and first lady Mary Todd Lincoln were ever in the same room, it probably would have looked something like their gathering at the Craik-Patton House last week.

As expected, Grant and Mary Todd bickered constantly. The first lady accused the Union general of being an inept drunk and an unrepentant cigar smoker. Poor Grant tried to defend himself from her nagging insults.

"Everybody believes what they've been printing in the newspapers," Grant grumbled as he waved his unlit cigar.

"Is that your lame excuse?" retorted the first lady.

No, the famous historical characters did not rise from the dead for an afternoon of hobnobbing. Grant, Mrs. Lincoln and Jackson, played by long-time Civil War re-enactors Barry Meadows, Joyce Browning and Steve Cassel agreed to meet at the 1830s-era Craik-Patton House on Kanawha Boulevard last week to commemorate the 14th-annual Civil War Weekend in Putnam County, which begins Friday at Hurricane's Valley Park.

The three characters will make appearances throughout the weekend, along with actors playing President Abraham Lincoln, Confederate spy Belle Boyd and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Lee and Boyd, played by Al Stone of Hinton and Patty Sue Cooper of Parkersburg, could not make it to get-together at the house last week. They sent their apologies via "telegraph," and left stoic Stonewall to deal with two arguing Yankees.

The first lady and her husband's commanding general had a notorious distaste for each other. She believed Grant needlessly sent Union soldiers to their doom.

Thousands of Civil War enthusiasts head to Putnam every year for Civil War Weekend, when hundreds of re-enactors bring back to life the two minor fights that took place there: the Battle of Scary Creek and the Blue and Gray Skirmish at Hurricane Bridge.

On July 17, 1861, before the war's first major engagement, the Battle of Bull Run, Yankee forces commanded by Gen. Jacob Cox pushed through the Kanawha Valley and met several thousand Rebel soldiers near Scary Creek, in Scott Depot.

Confederate Col. George S. Patton, grandfather of the famous World War II general, commanded the line at Scary Creek, according to the West Virginia Encyclopedia.

After a five-hour firefight, and several unsuccessful Union charges across the Scary Creek Bridge, Patton repelled the federal assault and won the battle. Few soldiers died on either side, but Patton was seriously wounded during one Union surge.

Two years later, on March 18, 1863, Confederate and Union forces met again, at Hurricane Bridge. Again, the fighting lasted about five hours and few men died. Both armies eventually withdrew, according to information from the Civil War Weekend's website.

Friday at 9 p.m., the re-enactors will light up the sky with an artillery-fire demonstration. Most of the cannons were used during the war and were restored to working condition, said Lee Casto, one of the organizers of the weekend's events.

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