Brother James Sommers’ Collection To Be On Display

The Battle of Cool Spring raged on along the banks of the Shenandoah River July 18–19, 1864. This July 19, 150 years later, as part of the sesquicentennial for the event, visitors can see a collection of artifacts found at the site over many years. The exhibit, Relics of Cool Spring at Shenandoah University’s Shenandoah River Campus at Cool Spring Battlefield, presents the finds of Brother James Sommers, including bullets, rocks, and personal artifacts.

The exhibit begins its run Saturday July 19th 11am–4pm and will be available afterward by appointment throughout the summer ending on September 30, 2014. Appointments may be made by calling the Clarke County Historical Association. This exhibit gives the viewer an appreciation for the time and effort Brother James Sommers put forth putting the collection together. Before the preview a special tour of the battlefield with National Park Ranger Shannon Moeck and Lord Fairfax Community College Professor Jonathan Noyales will lead the July 9 tour beginning at the gift shop of Our Lady of the Holy Cross Abbey, 901 Cool Spring Lane, Berryville. The tour is part of the “On this Day” Anniversary Tour to commemorate the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign.

Brother James Sommers came to Holy Cross Abbey in the late 1960s and lived there until his death in 2011. He served in many roles at the abbey; from mixing the dough of their popular bread, acting as head librarian and greeting visitors to the gift shop at the Abbey. It was during this last role that Brother James Sommers discovered that the details surrounding the Battle of Cool Spring remained a mystery. Most information, including the exact location and name of the battle were largely forgotten.

As a history buff, Brother James Sommers was glad to do the research to find out the details surrounding the battle. He used a metal detector put together by several monks to find some of the artifacts. With the approval of his Abbot, he soon unearthed hundreds of objects including bullets, buttons, and buckles. Those artifacts along with soldier’s diaries, letters, and official records told the story of the Battle of Cool Spring.

“As a parent I can’t wait to take my daughters on the tour of the Cool Spring property,” Local author and historian Stacey Graham said. “ Opportunities like this one do not come along often.”

Throughout his life Brother James Sommers contributed a great deal to the understanding of the Battle of Cool Spring. For more information email or call 540.955.2600 with questions or comments.