This month the Culpeper community pulled together to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Kelly’s Ford — the first pitched cavalry battle of the Civil War. During that battle, “the gallant” Major John Pelham, commander of JEB Stuart’s horse artillery was mortally wounded.
Commemorative events began on the afternoon of March 10, when Culpeper Chapter #73 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy hosted a well-attended ceremony on the south bank of Rappahannock at the site of Kelly’s Ford. The ceremony featured several uniformed color guards and both rifle and artillery salutes. “Dixie,” played by Evergreen Shade, was followed by a hearty “Rebel Yell.”
On the morning of March 16, the Brandy Station Foundation conducted a 4 ½ hour lecture/tour on the Battle of Kelly’s Ford and the death of Major Pelham.
That afternoon, the Society for the Preservation of Culpeper History hosted a concert by the 2nd South Carolina String Band at Christ Episcopal Church in Brandy Station. Incidentally, Christ Episcopal Church, which was packed for the concert, is the successor to Saint James Church, destroyed by Union soldiers during the occupation of Culpeper in 1863-4.
On the evening of March 16, the BSF hosted a gala ball at the Inn at Kelly’s Ford. 160 Guests, many of whom wore period attire, attended. The ball opened with cannon fire by Carpenter’s Battery and a torchlight ride by the Black Horse Troop. Then, Confederate gray and hooped gowns predominated on the dance floor during reels played by the 2nd South Carolina String Band and called by the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Era Dancers. The Foundation has pledged to donate ½ of the proceeds from the ball toward the purchase of Fleetwood Hill.
On Sunday, March 17, the BSF, in conjunction with Fauquier’s Liberty Heritage Society, hosted a symposium at the Inn at Kelly’s Ford. Ten speakers gave presentations on a variety of topics to an audience of about 40, one of whom came all the way from Tuscaloosa, Alabama for the weekend’s events.
Concurrently with the symposium, the Woodward family hosted the official dedication of two new interpretive markers for the Battle of Kelly’s Ford. The markers, erected by the Civil War Trust, are on Newby’s Shop Road. They overlook the fields upon which Fitz Lee’s brigade of cavalry charged, culminating the fighting on March 17, 1863. The Woodwards recently placed their 964-acre property in easement, preserving it from future development.
While these events were not as large as those in some other places, they demonstrate the broad support within the Culpeper community for preserving our nation’s heritage. Individually and together, they were a very fitting honor for the brave men — both Blue and Gray — who fought at Kelly’s Ford.