Civil War Trails: Augusta County Tells Forgotten Pacifist Story

Chris Brown, Assistant Director of Civil War Trails, Inc. secures the new sign in place. It is located at 1529 Parkersburg Turnpike in Swoope, Virginia. (Courtesy, Civil War Trails, Inc.)

Augusta County, Virginia, added a new story to the Civil War Trails program, one which has been largely forgotten for more than 160 years. Titled “Civil Disobedience, the Plight of Pacifists,” it is the first Civil War Trails site in Virginia to tell the story of conscientious objectors. The project was made possible thanks to a partnership between the Augusta County office of Economic Development and Tourism, Augusta County Historical Society, Civil War Trails, Inc. and the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

It is an exciting moment for each of the partners. Drew Gruber, Executive Director of Civil War Trails, Inc., said that, “Stories like this one remind us that people throughout time are unique, with individual passions and convictions.” Moreover, Gruber detailed that as the audience for Civil War Trails continues to expand, stories like this one should appeal to all audiences. “History buffs are excited to stand in the footsteps of this lesser-known story and it has already proved to be a more engaging story for visitors who aren’t history nerds.”

The story itself is one which has been sidelined in Virginia history. In the spring of 1862, approximately 70 pacifists, members of multiple congregations in the Shenandoah Valley tried heading west to avoid the Confederate draft. They were caught in present-day Petersburg, West Virginia, and were marched to Staunton. The commitment of the pacifists turned prisoners helped promote laws protecting conscientious objectors.

Over 70 conscientious objectors, Virginians from many of the Shenandoah Valley’s pacifist congregations were marched down Parkersburg Turnpike from Petersburg, West Virginia towards Staunton where they were temporarily jailed by Confederate authorities. (Courtesy, Civil War Trails, Inc.)

The new Civil War Trails site is one of three in Augusta County, one of the 550 across Virginia, and one of the 1,500 Trails sites ready and waiting for travelers across six states. The Civil War Trails program works with the Virginia Tourism Corporation to help promote the sites and stories in many ways including a new forthcoming brochure. As visitors explore the program these educational vignettes become part of the local economy.

“As always, the Augusta County Historical Society (ACHS) appreciates the opportunity to work closely with the county of Augusta and the Civil War Trails group to help bring to light the multi-faceted stories of this tragic and bloody conflict that played out in our own backyards. The poignant story of a group of young men risking their lives because of their faith is particularly touching. We hope that visitors use these Civil War Trails signs to gain a greater appreciation of the very rich and personal history that surrounds us here in the Shenandoah Valley,” said Ray Wright, ACHS President.

The Historical Society and Augusta County Tourism work hand-in-hand with the Civil War Trails team and the Virginia Tourism Corporation to promote these sites to travelers. As visitors explore the Civil War Trails network, overnight stays, shopping, dining, and exploring the region bring revenue into the municipal tax base. According to the Civil War Trails team, travelers who are interested in history are increasingly interested in outdoor recreation, wine, beer, music, and more. For history-centric travelers, they stay an average of 3-4 nights, travel with an average of 3 people, and the majority are between 25-34 years old. This all adds up to an incredible economic return.

The new Civil War Trails is located at 1529 Parkersburg Turnpike, Swoope, Virginia 24479. Be sure to snap a #signselfie and post it along #visitaugustava. For more information about visiting Augusta County, request a free brochure at www.visitaugustacounty.com.



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