1897 Confederate Day a memorable occasion
By Charles Culbertson/contributor
October 2, 2010
On June 5, 1897 — 33 years to the day after Southern forces lost the battle of Piedmont in Augusta County — the fairgrounds in what is now Gypsy Hill Park was the site of Confederate Day, in which the area's aging warriors got together for food, games, music and reminiscing about their contributions and sacrifices during the War Between the States.
It was the idea of the old soldiers themselves and sprang out of a May meeting of the Stonewall Jackson Camp of Confederate Veterans. Committees were formed to handle arrangements and many of the area's most prestigious, valorous old soldiers were named to head the committees.
They included Maj. Jed Hotchkiss, Stonewall Jackson's cartographer; Capt. Thomas D. Ranson, a Staunton attorney who had served with Jackson; Capt. T.C. Morton, whose remembrances of the war included receiving a rare chewing-out by Robert E. Lee; and Capt. James Bumgardner, who saw vast amounts of action with the 52nd Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy and many sons of Confederate veterans also assisted on the committees.
Former commanders were requested to "call their old men together" for the event.
By all accounts the day was a full one. With perfect weather to assist them, the celebrants were serenaded in the morning by the Stonewall Brigade Band and in the afternoon by the Blackford Band.
Much hilarity surrounded a pie-eating contest and a potato race; a baseball game was won by the cadets of Augusta Military Academy; and children enjoyed a merry-go-round and an exhibition of the multi-spool spinning wheel known as a "spinning jenny."
The festivities also included a bicycle parade, foot race and a trap-shooting contest. Picnic tables groaned under the weight of food prepared by the ladies of Staunton.
But the day was, of course, designed by Confederate veterans for Confederate veterans and portions of it contained decidedly martial aspects.
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