There are seven historical interpretive markers on the battlefield for visitors who would like to take a self-guided tour. There is no better way to gain understanding of a battle than to walk the ground. We hope this article will be useful to individuals or groups planning a visit.
When the American Battlefield Trust (ABT) first acquired the property now preserved, representatives met with the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield (FCMB) to discuss trail options. The trails were laid out to make use of the preserved parcels while also keeping the land farmable. Trails had to be safe and easy to maintain.
ABT staffers Gary Adelman and Sam Smith laid out the trail plan and sign options. Alterations were made with input from FCMB board members, including Lon Lacey, Michael Block, Diane Logan & others. The same process occurred to create the content for the battlefield interpretive markers. The ABT wrote the first drafts, which were improved upon FCMB. The revised comments were reviewed by three outside historians, Greg Mertz, Bob Krick Sr. and Bud Hall. These comments were incorporated into the overall content.
The maps were created by Steve Stanly specifically for these interpretive signs. The installations happened around the start of 2016.
The Trust was looking to try some new things for interpretation and settled on the silhouettes at Cedar Mountain. In what proved serendipitous, the infantry silhouettes’ placement gives an accurate approximation of the farthest advance of General John White Geary’s Ohio Brigade.
The first interpretive marker, titled “A Narrow Victory,” is placed at the parking area where the trails begin (see first photo at left of first paragraph).
The second marker, #2 on the trail map, is appropriately placed at the Crittenden Gate. What confuses many who try to interpret the battle is that the original road that was the axis of the battle continues straight along the fencing from this point forward. Modern day General Winder Road was the Crittenden Lane and Highway 15 did not exist.
The historic Crittenden Gate was restored by members of Boy Scouts of America Troop 225 under supervision of FCMB Board Member Sam Pruett.
Marker #4 is titled “The First Blow.” It represents the launch of Union Brigadier-General Christopher C. Auger’s Division attack upon the Confederate line. The trail from marker #3 to #4 parallels highway 15. On hot days the trail is in full sun with little relief, whereas the other markers are close to shade.
Marker #5 is titled “The Battlefield Since 1862.” We call this location the Point. Several of the original stone brigade markers which were placed about the battlefield by Judge Daniel Amon Grimsley of Culpeper in the early 1900’s have been brought to this location for protection. Grimsley was a veteran of the 6th Virginia Cavalry. His other markers can be seen scattered about the field in their original locations. The original placements were sometimes a nuisance to local farmers and some have disappeared over the years.
Marker #6 is titled “The Jaws of Defeat.” This marker places the visitor in the footsteps of the men of Brigadier-General Samuel W. Crawford’s three regiments who made an astonishing advance upon the left flank of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s first line. The terrain features here make plain the reason the blow came as such a surprise to the rest of Jackson’s line along the original Culpeper-Orange Road.
Visitors have the option from here to complete the shorter trail loop to visit marker #7 or continue farther north to see the Stonewall Brigade Grimsley marker and the large monument to the 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. See our post on the battlefield monuments for more information.
Marker #7 tells the famous story of “Stonewall” Jackson rallying elements of his broken line with General A. P. Hill’s troops just arriving on the field. The timely arrival brought the Confederates a stunning victory. As can be seen from the photo this marker is in a shady spot.
This gives an overview of what a tour can be; however, there are several other trails available, and guests can naturally follow any paths they prefer. Estimated time touring the battlefield on one’s own is up to 1 1/2 hours.