Latest Posts

Guided battlefield tour

Join Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield (FCMB) for a guided walking tour of the battlefield on Saturday, June 13 at 10:00 am. This tour is open to all ages to learn about the August 9, 1862 encounter in which Confederate troops led by General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson prevailed over Federal troops led by General Nathaniel Banks at a cost of 3800 men killed or wounded.

Please note that physical distancing of 6 feet will be encouraged in accordance with current CDC and state guidelines for safety. The group will be limited to 10 participants. If there are more than 10 participants, a second guide will be available.

The tour typically takes about 2 hours. Sturdy shoes, a water bottle, a hat and insect repellent are recommended.
Donation: A $10 donation to FCMB is requested.
Parking: Friends of Cedar Mountain Meeting House, 9465 General Winder Road, Rapidan, VA 22733.
Please direct any inquiries to info@friendsofcedarmountain.org or 540-727-8849.

Tour report: June 2020

It was a beautiful Spring day on Saturday, June 13, 2020, and Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield had 7 visitors attend our first regularly scheduled guided tour of the season. After an introduction to the battle the guests divided into two groups. One went with guide Sam Pruett and followed the interpretive markers. Four more seasoned battlefield enthusiasts took to the woods to follow the Stonewall Brigade Trail to tell the story of the brigade’s clash with the six companies of the 3rd Wisconsin and the 46th Pennsylvania. Guide Brad Forbush also covered the approach of the 10th Virginia. The course path through the woods showed the difficult approach to the battle experienced by the Confederates on the left of Stonewall Jackson’s line. Included in the tour group was Mr. Bill Irby whose ancestor William Branch Coleman of the 21st Virginia, Company C, was mortally wounded in the battle. Emphasis on the ordeal of that regiment was given during the rest of the battlefield walk. At the end of the tour the group posed for pictures near where the regiment fought. Everyone enjoyed their visit and promised to return with friends. It was a great day on the battlefield for the guides and the guests.

Visitors are welcome to join us on our next scheduled guided tour on July 11 or explore on the trails on their own year-round. Our site has  information for self guided tours  including a walking route and trail map.

Guided battlefield tour

Join Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield (FCMB) for a guided walking tour of the battlefield on Saturday, June 13 at 10:00 am. This tour is open to all ages to learn about the August 9, 1862 encounter in which Confederate troops led by General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson prevailed over Federal troops led by General Nathaniel Banks at a cost of 3800 men killed or wounded.

Please note that physical distancing of 6 feet will be encouraged in accordance with current CDC and state guidelines for safety. The group will be limited to 10 participants. If there are more than 10 participants, a second guide will be available.

The tour typically takes about 2 hours. Sturdy shoes, a water bottle, a hat and insect repellent are recommended.
Donation: A $10 donation to FCMB is requested.
Parking: Friends of Cedar Mountain Meeting House, 9465 General Winder Road, Rapidan, VA 22733.
Please direct any inquiries to info@friendsofcedarmountain.org or 540-727-8849.

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

Print This Post Print This Post

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.

Print This Post Print This Post