Civil War Trails – Connecting Visitors To History On The Civil War

A sign was dedicated in Floyd, Virginia, as part of the Virginia Civil War Trails system. John Graham of the Floyd County Historical Society (FCHS) said that the system connects visitors to sites from the Civil War, both well-known and less familiar. People following the trail system can follow different military campaigns in the American Civil War.

The dedication occurred in front of the sign which was installed in front of the FCHS Museum. Graham led the project to obtain the sign, and he gave the opening remarks at the ceremony.

The Civil War Trails System consists of 1,552 sites in 5 different states. The sign in Floyd is the first one you come to after leaving North Carolina. When state maps get reprinted, the sign will be included in both the North Carolina and Virginia maps.

Mitch Brown began the Civil War Trails Program about 20 years ago with a driving tour called “Lee’s Retreat.” The program grew from those humble beginnings to become a multistate tourism initiative.

Graham said that Floyd will be included in the next edition of “America’s Civil War” magazine.

Wise Headen is a former slave who is mentioned on the new sign in Floyd. The FCHS plans to fix Headen’s footstone. Graham says that the purpose of the Civil War Trail signs is to make these lesser-known sites visible to the public.

Chris Hartley read excerpts from his book, “Stoneman’s Raid, 1865,” at the dedication. He said that the raid lasted nearly sixty days and went from Virginia to North Carolina and South Carolina before winding up in Alabama. According to Hartley, it was one of the longest raids in US history. It went on for almost 2,000 miles and brought the war to the people in the south, SWVA Today reported.

When Stoneman and his troops reached Jacksonville (now known as Floyd), they met with resistance. One of his men, Lt. James M. “Mat” Howard, was killed.

The song, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” written by Robbie Robertson and recorded by The Band in 1969, was about the Stoneman raids in Danville, Virginia.

The raids were also part of a Disney movie. “Menace on the Mountain,” starring Jodie Foster in 1970, tells of a family in the American South trying to protect their home from Civil War deserters.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE