Two years after Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson lost the First Battle of Kernstown, near Winchester, Va., the Confederates were able to score a victory on the same grounds. On July 24, 1864, the Pritchard family once again hid in the basement of their two-story brick house while outside, the Second Battle of Kernstown rolled over their farm and around their home.
For the Pritchards, it was Hell on Earth for a second time. The parents and children emerged each time from the safety of their cellar to a world of trampled fields and a harvest of dead and dying soldiers strewn across the farm. Each time, they filled the house with the wounded, caring for men from each side as best they could.
This week, the 150th anniversary of the battle will be commemorated on Thursday, July 24, with a free National Park Service ranger-led tour of the privately owned battlefield from 4 to 6 p.m. The Pritchard house will also be open for tours. Volunteers from the Kernstown Battlefield Association (KBA) will have the Pritchard house open for free tours on the weekend, July 26 and 27, from noon to 4 p.m.
The preservation of the 315-acre Pritchard farm and house is an unlikely success story. In the 1990s, the property was for sale and there was intense interest on the part of the local developers in so much open land so close to Winchester. Local residents were also intensely interested, but their goal was to buy and preserve the property. They formed the all-volunteer KBA and managed to raise the necessary $4 million to make the purchase in 2000.