Check out this exciting opportunity at Ellwood on the Wilderness battlefield by our friends at the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield this weekend.
Our good friends at the American Battlefield Trust announced a major milestone this week at their annual conference: 50,000 acres of saved battlefield land! What an incredible achievement!
The acquisition of 13 acres at Cedar Creek in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley tipped them over the top. Their 50,000 acres includes hallowed ground saved at battlefields of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War. The achievement was announced at the opening of the Trust’s Annual Conference, being held this week in Newport News, Virginia.
For more details, check out the Trust’s press release:
The American Battlefield Trust is the nation’s leading battlefield preservation organization. It traces its history back to 1987 with the creation of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites. It is best known for its work as the Civil War Trust, now a division under the American Battlefield Trust banner. The umbrella organization and its predecessors have cumulatively protected 50,000 acres at more than 130 battlefields and associated sites spread across 24 states, from Glorieta Pass in New Mexico to Lexington in Massachusetts.
“Every single acre you have saved represents a significant victory in our ongoing race against time and development pressures,” Trust President James Lighthizer told members and supporters gathered in Newport News. “These 50,000 acres represent priceless national treasures, saved for future generations, and replete with vivid stories of sacrifice and valor, victory and anguish.”
In his remarks, Lighthizer tried to put the 50,000-acres accomplishment in perspective: “Fifty thousand acres — that’s 78 square miles — is difficult to wrap your mind around. It is greater than the entire area of ‘the Federal City’ that George Washington envisioned on the Potomac River, the District of Columbia. But rather than think about it in terms of size, perhaps it is better to remember it as an acre for every soldier killed, wounded or captured at Gettysburg.”
Lighthizer also noted that much of that progress has occurred in just four short years, since 2014. In that time period, more than 10,000 acres of progress has been made at historic shrines such as Antietam’s ‘Epicenter’ tract near Dunker Church, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s now-restored headquarters at Gettysburg, and a War of 1812 battlefield in New York where Americans wrested dominance over Lake Ontario from the British.
“We owe a great debt of gratitude to our 50,000 members and to each individual who believes that this legacy is worth preserving and passing on,” Lighthizer said. “But we cannot slacken our pace. As development nibbles away at and gobbles up fields and farmland, America’s historic landscapes continue to vanish at an alarming rate.”
The Trust drew within striking distance of the 50,000-acre milestone in 2017 with deals to protect Civil War sites at Appomattox Court House, Shiloh, Gettysburg, Second Manassas, Trevilian Station, and Prairie D’Ane in Arkansas. So far in 2018, the Trust has most notably acquired battlefield acreage at Corinth and Champion Hill in Mississippi, Brown’s Ferry and Fort Donelson in Tennessee, and Appomattox Court House, Brandy Station, Cold Harbor and Second Deep Bottom in Virginia.
The save that pushed the Trust across the 50,000-acre finish line was the purchase of a pivotal 13-acre tract on the Cedar Creek battlefield in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. This was preceded by just one day by the acquisition of the 15-acre Washington’s Charge Site on the Revolutionary War battlefield of Princeton, N.J.
The Virginia property, known to modern-day residents as the Battle of Cedar Creek Campground, figured in the fierce Oct. 19, 1864, battle that gave the Union control over the Valley. The streamside tract along Cedar Creek saw significant combat in both the morning and afternoon phases of the seesaw battle. After his troops crossed here in the morning, Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Early reunited his three infantry columns and overwhelmed the Union army.
But late that day, Union troops under Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan counterattacked, sending many of Early’s soldiers fleeing across the Cedar Creek bridge under artillery fire. The bridge’s stone abutments survive. The parcel includes one of the few remaining sections of the Valley Pike, among the nation’s first engineered roads — 22 feet wide, ditched and “macadamized.”
The property was acquired with the assistance of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation and the HTR Foundation.
To help the American Battlefield Trust continue its battlefield preservation efforts, visit battlefields.org/savebattlefields to learn more about current projects across the nation.
The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. To date, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected 50,000 acres of battlefield land associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.
The National Park Service this week released decades of park records for public search and use. Their press release reads as follows:
The National Park Service (NPS) today unveils a newly launched public website: pubs.etic.nps.gov that is making more than 32,000 NPS records available to the public. Academic researchers, students, history enthusiasts, educators, and the like will discover a multitude of collections. For example, the collection contains such important documents as the original drawings of the main immigration building at Ellis Island National Monument, a concessionaire shop in 1933 at Muir Woods National Monument, and historical documents of Alcatraz Island.
NPS created the site to accommodate the public’s need to access NPS drawings and documents in a convenient, user-friendly, digital way. Users looking to draft historical studies, project planning, or studying natural and cultural resources will now find a plethora of robust resources at their fingertips. “Our collections represent the National Park Service’s commitment to the preservation of unique places and resources held for future generations by documenting our past, present, and anticipated endeavors,” said Ray Todd, Denver Service Center Director. “The public can now easily discover a treasure trove of American history with just a few clicks on their computer keyboard or mobile device.”
The Technical Information Center (TIC) at the NPS Denver Service Center (DSC) is the oldest and largest information system in the National Park Service. TIC is the central repository for proper retention, access, and disposition of NPS records that include drawings, specifications, scientific, and technical reports. The Denver Service Center works closely with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to deposit required NPS records for preservation.
For more details, visit the public eTIC website at pubs.etic.nps.gov.
I spent some time this weekend going through the site, and the search function is easy to use. A lot of old park plans are there, including several 1940 plans for the battlefields which were overtaken by the Second World War.
Over two-thirds of the national parks are historic in nature, covering the colonial period into the 21st Century. This database is an important resource and will no doubt be of much use.
Our good friends at The Civil War Trust announced this morning a new identity to better reflect its expanding mission: The American Battlefield Trust. The new umbrella organization will encompass the organization’s efforts to save battlefields from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.
“The Civil War Trust isn’t going away,” the Trust said in making its announcement. “[I]t remains the principal division of the American Battlefield Trust. You’ll continue to see its name and logo whenever we announce a new acquisition opportunity at a Civil War battlefield.”
The former “Campaign 1776” has been renamed “The Revolutionary War Trust” as part of the effort and, like the Civil War Trust, continue on as a distinct division within the umbrella organization.
Watch President Jim Lighthizer’s video message here. The Trust also posted a FAQ page for folks who have questions about how they’ve come to this point and what lies ahead. They also have a general introductory video on their news page.
The Trust’s former website, www.civilwar.org, will now be www.battlefields.org.
If you missed our Facebook LIVE events with the Civil War Trust this past week, you can still watch them—even if you’re not on Facebook. For your convenience, we’ve collected links for all episodes, below.
Emerging Civil War historians Edward Alexander, Dan Davis, Steward Henderson, Chris Mackowski, and Ryan Quint joined Kris White and Garry Adelman from the Civil War Trust for two days of on-location programs. (And ECW claims Kris, too, since he is one of our co-founders!) Beth Parnicza and Pete Maugle from the National Park Service and Tom Van Winkle, president of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, also joined in.
In case you missed the segments, you can watch through the Civil War Trust’s Facebook page, following these links:
Facebook will ask you if you want to log in or join up, but you can say “no” and still watch the videos–so tune in! The Trust has also archived past Facebook LIVE segments on YouTube, and the Chancellorsville episodes will eventually make their way there, too.
And don’t forget, we’ll be wrapped up the Chancellorsville 155th on Thursday, May 10, to commemorate the death of Stonewall Jackson. We’ll hit up Ellwood and the Jackson Shrine, and we have a few other surprises in store for the day, too!
“Are you going to pick up garbage?” my wife asked from the comfort of our bed as I finished tying my shoes.
“Yes,” I said, trying to stay quiet enough that she could fall back to sleep.
“Don’t pick up any condoms,” she warned.
No, of course not, I thought. Who knows what else I would pick up if I did.
I had already packed gloves and garbage bags in the car the night before. I poured myself a cup of coffee and slipped out the door. I was off to the Home Depot parking lot and, beside it, the path that led up to the earthworks along Zoan Church ridge.
Earlier in the week, during a Facebook LIVE event Emerging Civil War had participated in with the Civil War Trust, we’d visited the works only to discover them heaped with litter. We managed to film our segment (parts one and two), but we couldn’t show much because of all the garbage strewn about the site. I called it a “battlefield travesty” in a blog post on Friday.
But as I’d said in that post, my indignation wasn’t enough—so I was now on my way to do my part.
Fortunately, others had reacted to my post, too. A local preservation group reached out to say it had been working on trying to better protect and preserve the area. A local teacher reached out to say he’d been in contact with teachers at the nearby school, whose students seemed largely responsible for the litter, to say that there was interest in maybe adopting the site as a student project. I was so pleased at the response. It means there might be a longer-term solution.
In the meantime, trash bags in hand—gloved hand—I made my way up the path and started picking up litter.
I found plastic water bottles and soda bottles and discarded fast food containers from Wendy’s, Salsaritas, and Taco Bell—all franchises in the nearby strip mall. I found a pair of Little Ceasar’s pizza boxes, several Starbucks cups, and all sorts of random packaging for snacks: crackers, Slim Jims, cheese sticks, and more. I found a lot of straws. Smashed plasticware. A pair of men’s boxer shorts. An empty tampon applicator. Someone’s class ring on a chain.
There were far fewer beer cans than I expected—one can and one bottle, to be exact—but there were smashed bottles everywhere. Too much glass for me to pick up, actually. Too many cigarette butts, too. Someone had a particular taste for Marlboro smooth 100s.
Someone else, or maybe the same person, had gotten bored one day and had burned round holes into the screw-tip caps from a half dozen water bottles. Each cap, about the circumference of a nickel, had an even, black hole burned right through it at the center.
A snake rail fence runs along the uppermost stretch of the paved path. The last couple of segments had been kicked over so that walkers could take a shortcut down the bank. I re-stacked the fence posts, realizing even as I did so that they’d probably be kicked back over before long. Maybe they wouldn’t be. Maybe the students would surprise me.
After all, the teen I’d seen the day before walking up the trail with a Styrofoam cup from Sonic had not tossed the cup aside when he finished his drink—to his credit. I found no Sonic cup anywhere along the ridge, in fact.
One hour and two garbage bags later, I finished. There was nothing I could do about the spray-painted wayside sign, nor was there anything I could do about the discarded trash strewn about near the parking area at the bottom of the hill where’d I’d left my car. I’d only brought two bags, so I was out of room.
My thanks to all our readers who shared my disappointment, who offered words of support, who reached out to local contacts to see if there was anything anyone could do. My thanks to all our readers who take the time to pick up trash they see during their own battlefield adventures. I know how seriously so many of your take your role as battlefield stewards.
Often, when we talk about battlefield preservation, we think about financial contributions for big land purchases, but sometimes, the fight for preservation means getting into the trenches themselves, literally, where the fight is dirty.