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Culpeper Star Exponent: Interior Department funds Rapidan Front study in Culpeper

The article excerpted below was written by Clint Schemmer and published in the Culpeper Star Exponent on May 17, 2020. The article describes the awarding of a preservation grant to Friends of Cedar Mountain to support a cultural landscape assessment to study the nationally significant Civil War landscape along the Rapidan River front, extending north to the Union Winter Encampment area of 1863-1864 and the Cedar Mountain Battlefield. Visit starexponent.com to read the full article.

Excerpt:
The U.S. Department of the Interior is funding a study of Culpeper County’s “Rapidan Front” area of Civil War battlefields and historic sites.

The Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, a local nonprofit group, will receive $86,740 to research Culpeper’s Racoon Ford, Morton’s Ford and Sommerville Ford battlefields, sites that were fought over in 1863 and 1864 during the American Civil War.

The three battlefields and related historic sites, lie along the Rapidan River, which separated the Confederate and Union armies during that period.
Interior Secretary David L. Bernhardt announced the grant Friday during a visit to Gettysburg National Military Park, part of a $3 million package of grants from the nation’s American Battlefield Protection Program.

“Battlefields such as Gettysburg are sacred sites where Americans gave the last full measure of devotion,” Bernhardt said. “These grants enable us to partner with communities and organizations to preserve these places and connect visitors with their historical importance.”

Culpeper County resident Diane Logan, president of the Cedar Mountain friends group, expressed its appreciation for the Interior Department’s support.

“The Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield are thankful for the opportunity this grant award has given us,” Logan said Saturday. “We realize and appreciate the many layers of Culpeper’s rich Civil War history, and are excited at the prospect to explore, research and document events and historical sites that contribute to the full story of battle-torn Culpeper.”

Information for Self-Guided Battlefield Tours

There are 7 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.

When the American Battlefield Trust (ABT) acquired this property, 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.

The Gray LineThe third marker is titled “The Gray Line” and is placed approximately where William B. Taliaffero’s Brigade came into line.

 

The First BlowMarker #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.

The Battlefield Since 1862Marker #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.

The Jaws of DefeatMarker #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.

Grimsley Marker, Stonewall Brigade

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.

Jackson Is WIth YouMarker #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.

Trail Map

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.

Culpeper Star Exponent: Cedar Mountain group asks Culpeper to delay Greenwood solar project

The following article written by Clint Schemmer was published in the Culpeper Star Exponent on May 6, 2020. Please visit the article link or read below.

A long-established Culpeper-area citizens group has stepped into the fray over a 1,000-acre solar-energy facility planned near Stevensburg.

The Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, steward of part of that 1862 Civil War site, is asking Culpeper leaders to delay the county’s consideration of the project until it can finish an ongoing historical study of the area proposed for solar development.

On Monday, the all-volunteer friends group wrote the Culpeper County Planning Commission and the county Board of Supervisors asking them to halt the Greenwood Solar project so it can continue its study and learn if it will receive a federal grant this fall.

Development of the Greenwood Solar plant, which the Board of Supervisors approved in late 2018, “would create an integrity hole in the center” of the friends’ study area that could jeopardize other sites from being recognized as historic, the group said.

In January, the friends applied to the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program for a grant to fund research on what it’s calling the Rapidan Front, largely undeveloped land where the battles of Raccoon Ford, Morton’s Ford and Somerville Ford were fought and where elements of the Union army camped in the winter of 1863-64. The program is expected to announce its grant awards in August or September.

This study continues research begun in 2016 to identify threats to the Culpeper area’s nationally significant Civil War battlefields and cultural and agricultural landscapes, the friends said.

“If the (Greenwood) project proceeds as presented at this time without consideration to the historical and cultural value of the land it encompasses, it will render the area ineligible for National Register of HIstoric Places consideration not only for important Civil War sites but Colonial, African-American and Native American as well,” Diane Logan, president of the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, told the Culpeper Star-Exponent.

The friends group was raising private funds for its research in advance of the ABPP grant, but the COVID- 19 pandemic has temporarily halted that effort, Logan wrote Culpeper officials. “But we are committed to proceeding with this project as soon as possible,” she told them.

“We urge Culpeper County officials to put a halt to all industrial-scale projects on agricultural land, specifically the sites impacted by our grant application,” Logan wrote the governing board and Planning Commission. “We cannot lose our historic landscape, including the Union Winter Encampment boundary. Once the land is gone, it is gone forever.”

The ABBP grant would finance research to develop and enhance Culpeper historical tours, including landscapes and venues, and support agriculture, Logan told the Star-Exponent.

The study would highlight the importance of farming in Culpeper then and now, she said.

“It is the oldest business in our county and the most sustainable, not only for the health and welfare of our citizens but for growth and development,” Logan said. “Not to mention, agriculture has preserved the beautiful vistas that we enjoy today.”

The Rapidan Front research is documenting the historic resources of the encampment and the Rapidan, Raccoon Ford, Morton’s Ford and Somerville Ford battlefields, she said.

The project would open more resources for heritage tourism, a valuable industry that lures many visitors to Culpeper, and create economic development opportunities for small businesses such as campsites, water recreation and guided tours, the friends group wrote the boards’ members.

“FoCMB is aware of development threats to Culpeper’s historic landscape, particularly from potential industrial-scale solar facilities and housing development that would directly affect the outcome of the 2020 grant application,” it cautioned. “Such development would result in loss of landscape integrity that would render much of the Rapidan Front as no longer National Register-eligible.”

A newer Culpeper-area group that has been fighting industrial-scale solar development in Culpeper County praised the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield’s effort.

“Citizens for Responsible Solar applauds the efforts of Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield to preserve the land. We stand with them in opposing the development of this historic site beyond what it is zoned for, which is agriculture,” Citizens for Responsible Solar President Susan Ralston told the newspaper. “Industrial-scale solar has its place on land zoned for industrial use, marginal or contaminated land or land which is sparsely populated.

“The Greenwood Solar site is part of the land identified in the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield’s grant application and is already a well-documented historic treasure,” Ralston said.

In 2016, Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield met with its regional partners to discuss threats to Culpeper’s historic lands and identify priorities for preservation. Threats to its battlefield landscapes range from housing subdivisions to industrial-solar development to other utility projects, they determined. Looking forward, they set goals for heritage tourism, education, preservation and stewardship.

The Greenwood solar project was approved just before midnight on Oct. 2, 2018, after a three-hour public hearing. The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to grant a conditional-use permit for Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources to build and operate its utility-scale solar project on up to 1,000 acres near Stevensburg. NextEra acquired the project from Texas-based Greenwood Energy.

Historic photo donated to Friends of Cedar Mountain

We are grateful to local historian Clark B. Hall for his donation of a photo documenting President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1902 visit to Cedar Mountain Battlefield.

Journalist Clint Schemmer contributed an article about the gift in the February 12, 2020 edition of the Culpeper Star Exponent:

“A rare treasure has come home to Culpeper County, finding the perfect repository with an appreciative steward.

An original, silver gelatin photographic print of President Theodore Roosevelt at Cedar Mountain now rests in the care of the local nonprofit group that cares for the preserved portion of the Civil War battlefield.

Local historian Clark B. Hall, the collector who purchased the scarce photo, gave it to the Friends of Cedar Mountain during a recent visit to the hallowed ground, now maintained and interpreted by the group of area residents.” Read the full article and view the photo on starexponent.com

On Reverend Philip Slaughter’s Property, “The Shelf”

This is the 4th & last installment of a series of four memorable tours given at Cedar Mountain Battlefield in 2019. Links to the previous 3 tour reports can be found at the end of this post.

“The Shelf,” October 7, 2019

The last tour I will profile here was a particular pleasure for me.  It was a comprehensive driving tour of the entire range of the 1862 battlefield.  It began as a challenge. 

FCMB board member Karen Quaintance directed two visitors from New Hampshire to contact FCMB via our website in order to arrange a tour of Cedar Mountain on their next visit to the area, and I answered the call.  These were not average tourists, but seasoned battlefield explorers.  

In his initial contact, Mr. Bill Boyle wrote me: 

“I believe my friend Mike Carlson and I have visited Cedar Mtn. three times over the years. We come fully equipped with battlefield maps.  Just to give you a little background we have been researching battlefields and sites for nearly 25 years.  We are members of the American Battlefield Trust, Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Assoc., Gettysburg Foundation, Friends of the Wilderness etc.

After recently reading Krick’s book Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain and reading the maps we realized we had a lot more to learn.”

Wow, this was intimidating, I thought.  I’m not sure what I can tell them that they don’t know already.  But I had a great opening.  Further conversations revealed their particular interest in Pegram’s night-time artillery duel, a keen interest which I share with them, and which story I know well.  But it wouldn’t  take very long to show them the spot, so I determined to add in some special  extras for our tour.

Pegram's Knoll

Pegram’s Knoll is the high ground behind the white building in this photo.  Old Orange Rd. (the original road during the battle) pictured.

Through our FCMB partners, I obtained permission from the current owner of the Rev. Philip Slaughter property to bring my guests up the 200-foot hill where the Slaughter house once stood.  The battlefield landmark is referred to as “The Shelf.”   From here, Generals Ewell & Isaac Trimble had a magnificent commanding view of the entire battle.

Trimble wrote, “I was ordered to advance through the woods on our right along the slope of Slaughter Mountain and occupy a favorable position. About 3 o’clock the brigade reached the northwest termination of the mountain, in an open space elevated about 200 feet above the valley below, and distant form the position of the enemy’s battery about 1 1/4 miles,  …Having sent for you [Ewell] to examine the point, you decided to drag up Latimer’s battery, of my brigade, and place it in position, which was done promptly, about 3:30 p.m.” #1

From these heights, 18 year old Capt. Joseph Latimer’s untouchable battery belched forth rounds from 4 rifled guns, upon the broad plain below.  Two guns of Nathaniel Terry’s Bedford Artillery joined them.  Soldiers of the 35th Battalion VA Cavalry assisted pushing the guns up the hill.  Some died of heat stroke in the process.  The chance to visit this hill would be a highlight for both visitors and guide alike.

October 7th, 2019, the day of the tour, was a blast.   In my “worse for the wear and tear” Camry, or, “the adventure vehicle of choice,” as I like to call it, we visited the Shelf, where we took our time exploring the mountain, searching out the perfect spot for Latimer’s artillery to take position.  Trees obstruct the view today so it was challenging, but we think we succeeded.  

The current house standing today is built on the same footprint of the original Slaughter home.

A week after the battle, David Hunter Strother, one of General Banks’ staff, wrote in his memoirs:

“August 17, Sunday.   …I rode over to the mountain and visited the house of the Rev. Dr. Slaughter, late rebel head-quarters, and commanding a beautiful and comprehensive view of the country from Culpeper to the Rapidan.  This house has been completely gutted; and it was pitiable to see the fragments of a tastefully-selected library fluttering over the fields on the mountain side.  Among these I recognized the torn leaves of a valuable Italian collection called “IL VATICANO.”  The plates illustrating the frescoes, painting and statuary of St. Peter’s and the Vatican were all gone.  The furniture of the establishment had received no better treatment.”

Strother continued:

“At the corner of a wood I found a large party of our soldiers industriously engaged in exhuming something from under a mound of fresh earth, supposed to conceal silver plate and other treasures.  The sun was broiling, and they sweltered considerably at their voluntary labor.  They presently stirred up the putrid body of a horse.  This instead of disenchanting them only served to create fresh hopes.  What more adroit and natural way of concealing treasure than by burying it under this offensive body?  Suffocated by the intolerable odor I left them, still in high hopes, declaring that every stroke of their mattocks gave forth a hollow sound.  Doubtless their hopes proved as hollow as the sound.” #2

Devine Life Church

Down the mountain we visited Divine Life Baptist Church, which stands on the site of what once was Calvary Church, established 1855.  The Church was destroyed during the battle but the stained glass window was saved by Mrs. Philip Slaughter.

Captain Charles T. Crittenden of the 13th VA, who fought this battle on his own land, is buried at the church.Colonel Charles Crittenden's grave  

Col. Charles T. Crittenden’s grave, pictured.

After visiting these sights we drove up the Old Orange Road to the area of “Pegram’s Knoll.”

“I was directed to follow the enemy.  Colonel Stafford and General Field being now up, Stafford’s brigade was put in advance, and Field with Pegrams’ battery next…Stafford advanced, feeling his way cautiously, skirmishing, and taking prisoners.  Passing through the woods he came upon the enemy in force. By directions of General Jackson, Pegram occupied a little knoll upon the margin of the field and opened fire.” #3

Pegram opened fire.

“All at once Bang! went a cannon and a shell came whistling over our heads.” wrote a gunner from Battery K, 1st NY Light Artillery  “We had our battery in position in front of this Rebel battery but they did not know it for it was very dark when they ran their battery through the woods in front of us.  As they came up with the battery by our pickets the captain of their battery says to our pickets, “Here men help get this battery in position and we will give them g-d d—- Yankees hell!”  But he thought they were his own men.  They (our pickets) thought it was one of our batteries, but when he spoke our pickets left on the double quick. As I said before they fired the first gun. I tell you when our guns opened upon them the shells made them scatter very quick.  When they fired, you oddly see a regular stream of fire come out of their guns.”  #4

“The next morning 2 lieutenants of artillery were found dead on the spot occupied the evening before by the enemy’s battery, with abundant evidence that they had suffered terribly in killed and wounded.  Eleven dead horses were piled up within a few rods and 8 more were found dead along the road upon which the enemy retreated, together with a disabled caisson.”#5

Timothy O'Sullivan photo, Aug. 1862. Dead Horses on the Battlefield

Pictured are the dead horses on Pegram’s Knoll.  Photo by Timothy O’Sullivan, August 1862.

After our brief stop near Pegram’s Knoll the tour continued up Old Orange Road, across Route 15 to the sight were Colvin’s Tavern once stood.  From a hill above the tavern, artist Edwin Forbes sketched the tavern then being used as a hospital.  His caption, “The battle of Cedar Mountain.  Night at the hospitals.  Arrival of Gen. McDowell’s Corps.”  The key on the back describes numbers 1 – 7 on the drawing.  1.  Blue Ridge Mts.  2.  Turnpike.  3.  Confederate battery firing on the retreating Union forces. 4.  Thompson’s Union battery replying.  5.  Old farm house used as a Union hospital. Wounded lying on the ground.  6.  McDowell’s Corps arrived after forced march from Culpeper C.H.  7.  Gen. Pope’s headquarters.

Edwin Forbes Sketch, Library of Congress

Edwin Forbes Sketch of Cedar Mtn. Battlefield, night of August 9th, 1862.

The site of the tavern and the hillside behind it are today dotted with modern houses.

The driving portion of this comprehensive overview of the battle continued.  We passed the Nalle House on route 15, which was Gen. Pope’s headquarters the night of August 9th, and turned up a road which took us to the hill where the Brown House once stood. 

46th PA MonumentThen, with the 27th Indiana tour fresh in my mind, we drove to the Wayland’s Mill road trace and walked into the woods to see the broken ground which General Gordon’s Brigade crossed to the battlefield.    Next we visited the three monuments in the woods and took pictures.  These are the monuments to the  28th NY, the 27th Indiana, and the 46th PA.  Lastly, we drove around to the front of the woods to see the 10th Maine monument.  Because the site was then covered with corn stalks, it was difficult to see the low ridge where Major Pelouze and Colonel Beale had their tete-a-tete over whether to advance or fall back.

John M. Gould wrote in the history of the 10th Maine: 

“Without delay we faced about, and had retreated a few steps when Major Pelouze, a staff officer, rode out and said that Gen. Banks forbade this movement, but the Colonel persisted and we kept on.”

“The staff officer grew furious and appeared to be having a fist-fight with our Colonel, so animated were the gesticulations of the two officers.  The Major said much that the Colonel thought was unnecessary, and ended with the peremptory order to halt the regiment.”#6

The 10th Maine Infantry lost 39 killed, 179 wounded of 487 men present.

Pictured is the 10th Maine Monument at Culpeper National Cemetery.

This ended the driving portion of our tour.

Back on preserved ground we proceeded to walk the length of the entire field.  After circumnavigating from “The Gate” to “The Point” to the 3rd Wisconsin Monument, and the Stonewall Brigade marker, I felt I had presented all the information I could.  But Bill & Mike were not finished. 

My two guests wanted to walk the bit of preserved land across VA Route 15 that was Brig-Gen. Taliaferro’s  line, and so we did.

Pictured, Mike Carlson at Cedar Mtn. Battlefield.

Taliaferro’s Brigade quickly marched to this spot, in line of battle, from their position in the woods near the Crittenden Gate.  They had been lying is support of Confederate batteries and taking enemy shells, that “were tearing the forest to atoms.”  So they eagerly complied with orders to connect with the left of Gen. Early’s Brigade to the south along Crittenden Lane.  At the proper place they wheeled 90 degrees and advanced “over the ridge” near the lane, then over the fence on the east side of the lane and into the presence of enemy infantry skulking in the corn.”#7

Bill Boyle & Brad Forbush chat while visiting the position of Brig.-Gen. Taliaferro’s  Brigade.  

This was the kind of tour that was a blast for me.  One where the participants had the time and passion for seeing it all.  Everything I learned through research and following FCMB V.P. Michael Block around the field for 1  1/2 years was conveyed, and new places were visited by all.#8  

 The year 2019  was an exciting one at Cedar Mountain Battlefield.  Our battlefield guides await new visitors in 2020.



NOTES:

#1.  OR, Series 1, Vol. 12, part 2; p. 235.

#2.  David Hunter Strother, Virginia Yankee; p. 81-82.

#3.  OR Series 1, Vol. 12, part 2;  p. 216.

#4.  Letter from W. E. Smith, Battery K, 1st NY Light Artillery, Feb. 23, 1863, seen on eBay October 31, 2009.

#5. OR, Series 1, Vol. 12, Part 2;  p. 172.

#6.  History of the First–Tenth–Twenty-ninth Main Regiment, By Major John M. Gould, 1871; p. 184-185. 

#7.  Krick, Robert K., Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountan, UNC Press, 1990;  p. 84.   OR p. 211.]

 #8.  Look for the release of  FOCMB Vice President Michael Block’s new  book on the battle next year, titled  The Carnage was Fearful” coming from Savas Beate books.  It will be a great compliment to the already outstanding work on the subject, “Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain” by Robert K. Krick.


Links to the previous posts in our 2019 tour highlights series:

Some Memorable Moments from the 2019 Tour Season

The 27th Indiana Volunteers at Cedar Mountain

The 31st Virginia at Cedar Mountain

Virginians: Please contact your legislators to support battlefield preservation legislation

In its current session, the Virginia General Assembly is currently considering several amendments to the proposed 2020-2022 state budget that are of vital importance to battlefield preservation in the Old Dominion.

If you live in Virginia, please visit the link below to call your state legislators and express support for:

  1. Increasing funding dedicated to supporting the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund
  2. Amendments that would direct the state to fund creation of a Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park. Creation of this park would help highlight the rich Civil War history in Culpeper County and bring increased numbers of visitors to enjoy not only heritage tourism, but all that Culpeper County has to offer in lodging, dining, shopping, recreation, special events and more.

Please visit battlefields.org/call

31st Virginia at Cedar Mountain

This is the 3rd installment of a series of four memorable tours given at Cedar Mountain Battlefield in 2019.

On September 25, 2019, Friends of Cedar Mountain vice president Michael Block hosted Dr. Victor L. Thacker, retired Air Force Colonel, on a visit to the Cedar Mountain battlefield. Mike contributed the following tour report.

Victor was most interested in the 31st Virginia Infantry, as his great great uncle French Harding played a prominent role in the August 9 fight. The 31st Virginia was part of Jubal Early’s Brigade, Ewell Division; all part of Stonewall Jackson’s Army of the Shenandoah.

After introductions, we traveled south to the ford at Crooked Run, where Harding and the Army of the Shenandoah crossed as they advanced towards the eventual fight. The ford is on private property, with very limited access.

We continued to follow the Confederate march to a point just west of the battlefield, where Early’s command briefly rested along the banks of one of Crooked Run’s feeder streams, then marched on to the battlefield.

At the start of the day’s fighting, Early was ordered to advance and clear out the Federal cavalry, who were maintaining a picket line. Early’s Virginians advanced and made short work of the horse soldiers, clearing the western end of the field and allowing Jackson’s men to deploy.

We began our tour of the fighting again on private property (with permission), where the 31st Virginia fought. Early’s brigade aligned to the south of modern US Route 15 and spent the majority of the day fighting near the Crittenden Lane, first on a rise to the east, and later in the fields below the lane. Victor was knowledgeable about the fight and the role the 31st played.

Dr. Thacker
Dr. Victor Thacker on the battlefield.

In September 2019, much like August 1862, the land was in corn. We were able to find viewing points along the field as Early’s portion of the fight was discussed. In that late 1862 afternoon, combined advances by three Federal Brigades broke portions of the Confederate lines, including Early’s position on this rise.  The 31st retreated about 200 yards into a wooded hollow and that is where French Harding had his moment. 

Jubal Early, in his after-action report, stated the event thusly: “A body of men from the Thirty-First Virginia Regiment, around their colors, advancing the same way, attracted my attention by their gallantry. I was particularly struck by the bravery exhibited by the color-bearers, of these two regiments (the 13th being the other), who, with these small bodies of men around them, were waving their flags in the very front, as if to attract a fire upon them, and advancing all the well.” One of those color-bearers was French Harding.1

Harding’s memoirs were published in 2000 and tell the same story, from his perspective. “My Immediate later actions is to me, now inexplicable. Probably I then had no reason for it, other than the knowledge that some of my comrades had been left dead, and others wounded, on the battlefield. Be that as it may, one of the color guard – Martin Mulvey – had brought up the regimental flag; which I at once caught up and waved, called the boys to follow me, and without orders, started back to meet the enemy.”2

It is always a moving experience to walk significant family ground and it was not different for Victor Thacker. As a guide I draw profound pleasure from walking with descendants, recounting their personal histories on the spot where that history occurred. 

We followed French and the 31st Virginia as they advanced across the corn toward the Culpeper Court House – Orange Courthouse road, as they chase the broken Federal ranks and where the fighting for this particular unit ended.  

Victor Thacker photographs Early’s Brigade Marker at “The Point.”

Our last stop was The Point, where the recovered Grimsley Marker for Early’s Brigade is now located. It was a bright clear early afternoon, and easy for both of us to look at the rolling land, practically unchanged in 157 years, to reflect on the events and fortunes of all involved that day. Harding French survived the Battle of Cedar Mountain without injury, but was wounded in the arm three weeks later in the Thunder at Ox Hill.

French Harding survived that wound and the war.


NOTES:

1.   Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 12, Part 2, p 233.

2.  Thacker, Victor K., ed., French Harding Civil War Memoirs, (Parsons, WV, McClain Printing Company, 2000), p 60-61.

Lon Lacey, a remembrance

By Michael Block, Vice President, Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield

FCMB Board Member Lon Lacey passed away, Friday, December 13, 2019.  He was 84.

I first met Lon Lacey in February 2012, when we both joined the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield (FCMB) Board of Directors. We were two of three new members who joined at that time, with the general thought of infusing ‘fresh blood’ into the organization. It was also just prior to Cedar Mountain’s Sesquicentennial commemoration. We were both thrown into the deep end from the start. Lon didn’t miss a beat. His first project was to plan and execute a one-day symposium on the Battle of Cedar Mountain. The program went off flawlessly. 

Lon brought a passion for the history of the fight with him, having an ancestor who fought with the 27th Indiana Infantry. The historical detail of the battle was something Lon realized was missing from the FCMB. The current board makeup had an understanding of the fight, but lacked the details. We decided that needed to change. 

Over the intervening seven years we served together the variety and depth of tours increased significantly. No longer were visitors conducted along the wartime road and out to the “Point.” They were taken onto Cedar Mountain where Joseph Latimer positioned his guns. They strode down into the “brushy field” where George H. Gordon’s men were set upon from three sides. Our guests were also taken off the battlefield, to the streets of Orange Court House, the Widow Brown house site, the front yard of the Gilbert House, where McGilvery’s battery anchored the Federal left. And most importantly for Lon, the positions of Capt. James Thompson’s Battery C, Pennsylvania Light Artillery in their late night engagement with Captain Willie Pegram’s Purcell Artillery. That evening, the Federal guns stopped the Confederates. 

Lon researched that portion of the fight in significant detail. Not only diving into archives and online resources for the bits of information, but also reaching out to re-enactment groups who had the passion for the units involved. The information Lon assembled was amazing. He pin-pointed the battery’s location. Having served in the U. S. Marine Corps and a full career in the FBI, it is no small leap where he acquired his skills. His efforts rewrote our understanding of the artillery duel, and how Thompson was able to use his guns to their maximum effect, quickly rendering the Confederates combat ineffective and forcing their withdrawal. The impact of Thompson’s skill was documented for posterity by Timothy O’Sullivan’s stunning photo of the dead horses of Pegram’s battery, the first Civil War image of dead on the battlefield. 

His quest for accuracy did not end there. In 2013, the American Battlefield Trust (ABT), then Civil War Trust, proposed to replace our aging wayside markers with updated ones, with new text, images and maps. Lon and I dove into that project, reviewing the proposed markers line-by-line, discussing what was being said, its relevance to the location and the proposed supporting material. In nearly every case, based on our research, the markers were revised based on the on-the-ground battlefield knowledge and the significance of the position where the marker was placed. In Lon’s mind, this was fast becoming his battlefield, and the accuracy was not to be encroached upon. 

The locations and types of the fences throughout the battlefield was another project Lon pursued. Fences on the Cedar Mountain battlefield have never been mapped, though there is a wealth of information available in the period photographs, after-action report, diaries and letters and the art. Lon convinced the ABT to revise and relook at their understanding of the battle and how the fences impacted the fight. It was through Lon’s efforts that a fence now runs along the “Point.” Each year, on Park Day, it grows a little more. And this coming April, that legacy Lon began will continue. In my mind that fence is and will always be Lon’s. 

Lon was also a teacher. He loved nothing more than meeting guests on the battlefield and detailing the brief campaign and Battle of Cedar Mountain. The groups were varied and diverse, and Lon had the skill to speak to each group at their level of understanding and their particular interest. He coordinated and brought corporate leaders led by Maj. Gen. (Ret) Eric Vollmecke, members of the North-South Skirmish Association, and the Warwick School. These are just three of the hundreds of tours, groups or individuals Lon led across the battlefield. 

The corporate leaders participated in a staff ride of the battlefield and had an additional experience during their afternoon. They were taken to a nearby farm that had a firing range. Once there, Lon broke out a number of rifles from his extensive collection. After describing the weapons, the staff riders were allowed to try their hand at firing these historic weapons. 

When the North-South Skirmish Association toured the field, Lon gained permission and access to the Cedar Mountain Shelf, a private location few have had the privilege of visiting. The view is spectacular and you gain an immediate understanding of the impact on the battle Confederate artillery had from that position. 

In April 2016, we were visited by the Sixth Form (or Seniors) from the Warwick School, Warwick, England. This boys’ school is believed to be the oldest boys’ public school in the world. The group was traveling up and down the east coast and made Cedar Mountain a stop on their journey to Charlottesville. For three hours, Lon and I described the battle and the relevance to the Virginia campaign of 1862. While I am sure the young gentlemen enjoyed the tour and talk (and lunch) what got them all excited was the opportunity to handle Lon’s weapons. It was a rare treat and the boys thoroughly enjoyed the moment. 

Lon was instrumental in acquiring the two replica cannon that crown a hill on the battlefield. Plans were underway and funds collected to purchase a replica when the opportunity to have two from a former museum at Gettysburg were made available to the FCMB. Lon took point on all aspects of the cannon movement and refurbishment. He worked to transport them from Gettysburg, found a location and individual who would strip, break down, repair, rebuild and repaint the 126-year-old cannon. The result of the six-month process revealed two nearly pristine 3 inch ordinance rifled cannon you see at Cedar Mountain. 

As many of our board members d0, Lon re-enacted with a passion. He was key in finding units that would journey to Culpeper to take part in living history events or demonstrations. He brought Thompson’s Battery C down from Pennsylvania (a unit after his own heart) and the 2nd Maryland Fife and Drum Band, of which his son is a member. Artillery and music on the battlefield provides impact, and Lon delivered. 

Lon was intensely focused on battlefield preservation. He constantly looked for opportunities for some positive action whenever a piece of property on the battlefield became vulnerable. One of our first actions was supporting the ABT in purchasing the home on the edge of the battlefield that is now used for multiple purposes and functions as well as the ten acres directly across the street. When property fell onto our radar, Lon would research the history of that ground so the significance was understood. The documentation created was passed to those who needed it to fight whatever the fight was, be it an outright purchase, a viewshed challenge or just to better understand its relevance. 

I will miss the battlefield walks Lon and I took, going over the movements, actions and reactions, as well as the healthy discussions on what each of us believed happened, and where it happened. We always parted friends. His conversations at board meetings were always on task as to how the actions taken by the FCMB would move the group forward. The impact of his loss has not yet been realized. But Lon Lacey, you are already sorely missed. 

Rest in peace my friend, and Semper Fi! 

The 27th Indiana Volunteers at Cedar Mountain

This is the 2nd installment of our look at four memorable tours given at Cedar Mountain in 2019.

The 27th Indiana at Cedar Mountain, September 19, 2019

In July, Mr. Bob Shaffer contacted FCMB Vice President Michael Block to share information about his grandmother’s uncle, Edmund R. Brown, and to schedule a private tour with the Friends of Cedar Mountain.   The date September 19 was set to escort Mr. Shaffer around the battlefield.  Edmund R. Brown wrote the beautifully descriptive regimental history of the 27th Indiana Volunteers published in 1899.   His eloquent words are often quoted on tours of the battlefield. Here’s a brief example describing the regiment’s  eight mile march to Cedar Run which began just beyond Culpeper.

“The air was as hot as a bake oven.  Going directly south, near the noon hour, the sun beat mercilessly into our faces.  Our small, cloth caps, with narrow visers, were poor protection for our heads and eyes, while, with our heavy, regulation dress coats tightly buttoned, our bodies seemed to be a furnace of fire.  Not more than one or two of the Twenty-seventh were sunstroke and fell down in convulsions, but scores of other regiments were affected in that way. As we passed along in the intense heat we saw many o them lying on the ground, frothing at the mouth, rolling their eyeballs and writhing in painful contortions.  This march was the first of several almost incredible things accomplished that day.”

The day of the battle, August 9, 1862, happened to be Edmund Brown’s 17th birthday.  What were you doing when you were 17?  

Bob brought a copy of his ancestor’s book with him to Cedar Mountain while the 3 of us, Mike, Bob and I, explored the battle from the perspective of the 27th Indiana.  We drove behind the preserved land to see the high hill where the Brown House once stood, the jump-off point of the 27th when they advanced into battle.  From here,  two companies, C & F, were detached to the right a half mile as flank guards and were not engaged this day.  They were forgotten about when the Union lines fell back, so the two companies had an adventure finding their comrades after the retreat.  From the Brown House the regiment stepped off on the double-quick, across Cedar Run, towards the battle already in progress.  It was a long difficult approach.  

Our tour stopped in the woods, again on private property, where the old road trace of the Civil War era Wayland’s Mill road can be found.  Before us was the rugged, rock-strewn embankment the 27th charged over during their advance.  Brown wrote:

“Where the left wing of the Twenty-seventh struck the slope it rises at an angle of almost forty-five degrees.  All the way up the surface is not only steep, but mostly very broken.  Ravines, gulches, ledges of rock and innumerable loose stones, large and small, impede the progress at every step.  Trees and low bushes stand thick, with fallen tops and limbs and a tangle of vines and briars in many places, next to impenetrable.”

Looking down the slope today, the ground remains the same and Edmund Brown’s words came alive for us.   Nearby, on top of the wooded hill, stands a monument to the 27th, near the spot where the regiment stepped off the hill into combat.   It was placed in 1901 by John Bresnahan, of Washington, D.C., a Company A veteran who also placed the regiment’s monument at Chancellorsville. 

Our tour group left the woods and proceeded to the battlefield proper, where we walked the ground near the 3rd Wisconsin Monument.  It was here the 27th met the enemy in earnest.  When the regiment hit the fence bordering the wheat field they had to climb over it, or get around it somehow as best they could.  The enemy brigades of James J. Archer and Charles A. Ronald were in front and firing.  The regiment, being unprepared to respond,  had to fall back.  They reformed on a ridge a short distance from the fence and went in again, this time firing as they entered the fray.  Now in addition to Archer & Ronald’s brigade, William D. Pender’s brigade was on their flank.  And here we have a mystery, still to this day.

In the first advance the  3rd Wisconsin, was on the left of the 27th Indiana.  Six companies of the 3rd Wisconsin followed  Crawford’s brigade into the wheat field after a short delay and were forced back.  The 27th Indiana passed some of these troops in the woods on their advance.  The 3rd WI troops reformed and returned to the battle.  Because their battlefield monument is so far to the right of the Union line, it is presumed they came in on the right of the 27th Indiana.  It is a puzzle that remains to be solved.

Historian guide Michael Block was able to point to certain characteristics of the ground here, and offered his theories on the location of the hill where the 27th fell back and re-formed before their second charge. 

One last point on behalf of the 27th Indiana Infantry.  Their Brigade Commander General George H. Gordon constantly slighted them.  Another member of our board, historian Alonzo Lacey, whose great great uncle, Henry A. Ferris (Farris) served in the 27th and survived all its campaigns, said to me, “at Buckland Station, between Strasburg and Front Royal, the [27th IN] regiment, with some others of the 3d WI skirmished with Turner Ashby’s Cavalry and beat them back, but Gordon said they were routed.” 

General Gordon slighted the regiment again in his official report of Cedar Mountain.  But as Edmund Brown points out, in Gordon’s own book, “From Brook Farm to Cedar Mountain,” which was written years later, the brigade commander gives a more accurate account of events.

And so ended our exploration of the 27th Indiana at Cedar Mountain.  Its a part of the battle we don’t often get to tell due to time considerations.  In Mike’s words, “getting down to details and really understanding what was happening” make these kinds of tours especially rewarding for visitors and guides alike.  As Bob Shaffer summed up, “Walking the ground is the only way to understand it.”

Pictured above is the author at left with Mr. Bob Shaffer at the 27th Indiana Monument.