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Civil War Battle of Jonesville ~ Jonesville VA

Wow. How do I even begin to describe the 18th Annual Battle of Jonesville? I will break my normal protocol and say it up front, it was utterly fantastic! It was so good, I dreamed Civil War all night.

We started our day heading out on a glorious Saturday, winding up the mountains of Southwest Virginia, headed toward the Cumberland Gap. Perfect azure blue skies, puffy white clouds, the heat scheduled to top out just below 80. Ideal weather for wool and hoopskirts, blazing cannons and volleys of lead.

The week of the reenactment, I had spoken to Jerry Parsons of the "Southern Guards Brigade" who put together the event, peppering him with questions on the 18th Annual Battle of Jonesville. Normally we go in anonymously, wandering around just like you would, seeking to bring a true taste to the public of what to expect at each reenactment. With spotty information on the website, and three events going on that weekend in three different states, all within an hour and a half, plus a local festival, we had to choose. So I had to call!

The website boldly proclaims,”This is a reenactment for reenactors, by reenactors.” Tough statement, but that is exactly what Jonesville delivered. From the moment we arrived, it was non-stop action, living history,  people from the past and more.

We got there a little after noon, just in time to catch the period photographer at work. A group of horses were posed, with Confederate men in uniform on a hill, on the actual battlefield. Wendell R. Decker stood behind a wooden camera, setting up the shot. “Whoa” they cried, trying to get the horses to strike a pose and stay, long enough for the image to be burned into the plate. The shot was captured, and he ran off to develop the colloidal silver technique so popular during the war.

Jerry said they were expecting 500 Civil War reenactors, 15 sutlers (13 of have period correct items, 2 have food.) With that many people, the tin-type artist was swamped taking period photographs using the colloidal techniques of the Civil War.

We headed off to the "Main Tent" for the living history sessions that the Southern Guard Brigade are so famous for. First, we listened to a well spoken reenactor speak on "Slavery in the Mountain States." This living history segment showcased what slavery was like in the mountains, much different than it was in the coastal areas.

Next, it was time for the much anticipated "Meet the Generals" session, as they are phenomenal! Generals Lee, Armistead, Forrest and many more. The Generals passionately spoke of their lives before the war, and during the war, each sharing anecdotes and stories. Each one brought a slightly different flavor of the war to light. 

Then it was time to wander through the camps and civilian area as there was a short break before the battle. We checked out the colloidal photography a bit, then wandered off to listen to the period surgeon and nurses. Another tent had raffle tickets for a Civil War quilt to be raffled off later that day. The entire place bustled with activity.

Mid afternoon, folks began to line the dirt road anticipating the battle. We took our seats on the side of a hill, a perfect view to capture the battle for our Living History Sites readers. People filled in all around us, and there was quickly a large crowd, ready to watch the battle. Bring a chair or a blanket, it will make it a lot nicer!

Surprisingly, the actual Battle of Jonesville was fought on that very same hallowed ground, over 140 years before. A private farm now, the battlefield was almost like a large bowl, with a pond at the bottom, with gently sloping hills leading up from it. Cannon fire began to fill the air, then the Confederate Gray and Union Blue battle lines appeared on the field. The battle raged back and forth, the smoke filling the air against the startling green of the terrain. Men fought bravely, trying to hold the fenceline. Cavalry on horses danced across the battlefield. The cannons continued their deafening roar.

General Lee ran up and down the line of spectators, sharing what was going on during the battle, and what had actually happened. The crowd cheered, the guns blasted. It was an absolutely WONDERFUL battle - very captivating.

Family details to plan for. Bring a chair or blanket to sit on. Plenty of space for picnicking, so feel free to bring lunch and enjoy on the beautiful battleground perimeter. "Facilities" were of the portable variety, but well stocked, clean, with hand sanitiser, and plenty of them! They incredible folks who put this on had running water at this reenactment! Still a good idea to bring some wet naps for general clean up. 

Cost of Admission - $1.00! Does it get any better than that?

LivingHistorySites.com highly recommends the Civil War Battle of Jonesville Virginia, when you are in Southwest VA. Bring chairs, a picnic lunch if you so desire, and tell them the folks at Living History Sites sent you!

The Battle of Jonesville is in Jonesville Virginia, on the way to the Cumberland Gap! Get to Jonesville by taking Highway 58. At the courthouse, make a left, passing the military cemetery with the flags. On Harlan Road, make a right and go up 1/4 mile. It is clearly marked in Jonesville, so come on down and join the fun. 

For more information, contact Jerry Parsons of the Southern Guard Brigade, Co E37th Virginia Infantry.

Company E. 37th Virginia Volunteer Infantry

302 Oakwood Avenue

Pennington Gap, Virginia 24277   (276) 546-6010

E Mail- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The 19th Annual Battle of Jonesville will be held June 12-13, 2010.

Schedule of Events June 6-7, 2009 “Battle of Jonesville”

Saturday June 6

8:00 A.M. Officers Call

9:00 A.M. Gates Open/ Post Colors & Special Ceremony

10:00 A.M. Confederate Memorial Service

12:00 (Noon) Union Memorial Service

1:00 Slavery in the Mountains/ Luke Gilley

1:30 Meet The Generals

3:00 Skit

3:30 Troops form for Battle

4:00 Battle of Jonesville (1st day)

6:30 Dinner for the Troops (Big Tent)


8:00 P.M. Music (Big Tent)

10:00 P.M. Night Fire Artillery

12:00 (Mid-Nite) (ALL QUIET PLEASE)

Sunday June 7th-

8:00 A.M. Officers Call


9:00 A.M. Gates Open to the Public


9:30 A.M. Period Church Services

11:30 A.M. Speaker/Luke Gilley

12:00 (Noon) Meet the Generals

1:00 P.M. (Skit)

1:30 Troops Form for Inspection

2:00 Battle of Jonesville (2nd Day)

3:30 Pass & Review