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.”

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.

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

Editorial: Preserving Culpeper’s heritage must be our priority

The following is an editorial published by the Culpeper Star Exponent on June 9, 1863, available at www.starexponent.com

Ancestors of some who read this newspaper lived in Culpeper 156 years ago, and experienced firsthand the carnage of June 9, 1863.

Roughly 20,000 cavalrymen, both blue and gray, fought for their lives that day, slashing on horseback their brothers who served a different flag. More than a thousand died. All these decades later, many remain where they fell, buried in the rich green meadows of Culpeper County.

Coming as the anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station does on the heels of Thursday’s 75th anniversary D-Day observance, sober thoughts bow our heads in gratitude for the grit of those who fought and in sorrow for the futility of war.

Explaining how he shuttled shells to the guns of the USS Texas as it bombarded Omaha Beach, longtime Culpeper resident Howard Mills shared his story in the June 6 Star-Exponent article, “Hometown hero recalls role in D-Day on 75th anniversary.”

This past week, the world watched—with ceremony, tears and fascination—as that era’s aircraft soared again over Normandy’s beaches and countryside, which the French and Americans have preserved to honor the history made and the lives lost as the Allies liberated France from the grip of Nazi Germany. (That’s All Brother, a Douglas C-47 that visited Culpeper in the weeks before the 75th anniversary, led the air fleet that flew past world leaders and D-Day veterans at Omaha Beach on #DDay75. Seventy-five years before, she led the 800-plus other Dakotas carrying paratroopers into Normandy for their night drop over enemy territory.)

June 6, 1944, was Howard Mills’ 19th birthday; when the Allies’ fleet appeared off Normandy’s coast that morning, his whole life lay ahead of him. That day became a defining moment for him and the world, one he says he still thinks about every day. This year, Mills marked his 94th birthday on D-Day’s anniversary.

So, too, was the Battle of Brandy Station a defining moment—not just for its horsemen, but for the American Civil War itself.

In today’s Star-Exponent, columnist Clark B. Hall highlights this fact in his piece, “Hamlet of Brandy Station saw start of fabled 1863 campaign.” (Link to article)

Hall notes that Col. Frederick Newhall, helping dedicate the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry Monument at Gettysburg in 1888, said, “While Gettysburg is generally thought of as a struggle which began on the 1st and ended on the 3rd day of July, 1863, the fact will someday be fully recognized that it had its beginning many miles from here … It was at Beverly Ford then that Gettysburg was inaugurated.”

Had Gen. Robert E. Lee’s plan for the Gettysburg Campaign succeeded, Washington, D.C., might have been captured, with Southern victory a clear possibility.

The Confederates’ retreat after defeat in Gettysburg—the war’s costliest battle—ended Lee’s final strategic offensives. After that point, all combat operations of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia were in reaction to Union initiatives, until Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House in April 1865.

Hall, with the help of others, has worked for more than 30 years to preserve hundreds of acres of Culpeper’s Brandy Station battlefield, where the largest cavalry battle in the Western Hemisphere was waged.

Much of this land now belongs to the American Battlefield Trust, a national land-preservation nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. The trust, as well as an alliance of supporters—including the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors, Culpeper Town Council and state legislators such as Sens. Bryce Reeves and Emmett Hanger and Dels. Nick Freitas and Michael Webert—hope that Virginia will create a state park from the ground saved at Brandy Station and the nearby Cedar Mountain battlefield.

Mark Coombs, deputy director of government relations for the American Battlefield Trust, said the park initiative has come close to becoming a reality during the past two years, with a budget amendment approved by the Virginia Senate both years, but failing to win House approval before last winter’s legislative session ended.

More public support from people all across Virginia, and particularly from folks living in Culpeper County, is needed to make a state park a reality.

“We need people to become more active and engaged with the Brandy Station Foundation and Friends of the Cedar Mountain Battlefield,” Coombs told us. “Events are conducted year-round at both sites that aid in bringing attention to the battlefields and their resources and help from both an advocacy and stewardship perspective. These are the ideal vehicles through which people can assist, in multiple ways.”

Such a state park would be a blessing to the Culpeper region economically. But more importantly, the park will honor, commemorate and interpret our country’s biggest cavalry battlefield, and preserve for future generations the memory of those who lost their lives in the bloody struggle there.

Culpeper State Park Plan Hinges on Budget Negotiations

Article published by the Culpeper Star Exponent on February 14, 2019
Written by Clint Schemmer

Begin article:
If pro-tourism and pro-history people pick up the phone now and call Richmond, it sure couldn’t hurt.

That’s one takeaway from interviews with backers of the Culpeper County battlefields state park, whose fate rests with lawmakers meeting in the capital.

State Sens. Emmett Hanger and Sen. Bryce Reeves, Republicans representing Culpeper, have secured the Virginia Senate’s support for budget language directing the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to study creating a park at the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain Battlefields and report back this fall.

Now the question is how that idea will fare when powerful House and Senate conferees go behind closed doors, soon, to hammer out the state budget. The Virginia General Assembly’s winter session is set to adjourn by the end of next week.

Please read the full article

Express your support for the Brandy Station & Cedar Mountain State Park Alliance – click to call your Virginia legislator!

With large solar projects on horizon, what is the value of historic views?

Published August 21, 2018 by the Culpeper Star Exponent. Read article on starexponent.com or below.

Written by Allison Brophy Champion

A recent study by the Washington, D.C.-based American Battlefield Trust provided its analysis of the impact large solar farms would have on some of this area’s most hallowed ground.

Continue reading “With large solar projects on horizon, what is the value of historic views?”

Scout takes on rebuilding of Cedar Mountain Battlefield’s Crittenden Gate

Crittenden Gate Cedar Mountain Battlefield

 

BSA troop 225 recently completed a fifth Eagle Scout project on Cedar Mountain Battlefield.

Scout Zach Wright (center) coordinated the latest effort, alongside his father Dale (left) and fellow Cedar Mountain-supporting scout Travis Badger (right), in coordination with Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield board member and scout liaison Sam Pruitt. Continue reading “Scout takes on rebuilding of Cedar Mountain Battlefield’s Crittenden Gate”