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.

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

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! 

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Culpeper Star Exponent: Visitors mark Cedar Mountain battle anniversary

Excerpt and link to an article written by Clint Schemmer published on August 12, 2019 in the Culpeper Star Exponent.

Cannon boomed, rifles and muskets flashed, smoke billowed, rows of infantrymen in butternut and blue wheeled, turned and clashed, and surgical gear was unpacked.

But no blood was shed this weekend on Culpeper County’s Cedar Mountain battlefield, unlike the real thing on that ground 157 years ago, when 3,600 Union and Confederate soldiers lost their lives in the fighting between Cedar Run and its nearby mountain.

This year’s action at Cedar Mountain brought only an appreciative crowd of visitors eager to learn what happened there during the American Civil War, and to get some feeling for what it was like.

Read the full article on starexponent.com

Cedar Mountain in Summer 2019 Hallowed Ground magazine

One of the benefits of membership in the American Battlefield Trust (ABT) is a subscription to Hallowed Ground, the Trust’s award-winning quarterly magazine filled with beautiful photography and interesting articles. Each issue takes readers into an exploration of American battlefield history, preservation successes and challenges, special events, planning a battlefield visit, and much more.

The Summer 2019 issue of Hallowed Ground features an article about Cedar Mountain penned by our own Mike Block, vice president of Friends of Cedar Mountain. The ABT has generously shared Mike’s article on their website: please read Under a Deadly Sun at Cedar Mountain

Rich history is just one of the contributors to the vibrancy of our area. To learn about all that Culpeper offers, take a look at  Make Some History This Weekend: Explore Culpeper

We hope that after reading both articles you’ll be inspired to come visit!

Clara Barton at Cedar Mountain

Did you know that Clara Barton, the pioneering nurse who founded the American Red Cross, treated wounded soldiers at the Battle of Cedar Mountain? From a recent Washington Post article: “In August 1862, she rode her wagon full of supplies to a field hospital by the Cedar Mountain battlefield in Virginia. She showed up in the middle of the night, and to the surgeon there, it seemed like a miracle.” Read more

Generations event resurrects history at Cedar Mountain Battlefield

Read about our March 31, 2019 Generations event below or online at starexponent.com

Written by Allison Brophy Champion

RAPIDAN—Children dressed in little Union soldier uniforms—and regular modern street clothes—confronted a whooping Confederate line on a windy Sunday morning at the Cedar Mountain Battlefield along U.S. 15 in southern Culpeper County.

“For your homes, for Virginia!” rang out the Rebel call as both sides hurled plastic balls at the other and gusts carried the light spheres into the air, a few striking their intended targets.

“Let’s get so close to them to kill them all!” shouted one youngster in blue, the tactical lines shifting all around the grassy field overlooking the mountain for which the Aug. 9, 1862, Civil War battle at the site was named.

Like the actual battle here 157 years ago, the Union line that also included parents and grandparents eventually retreated. The Confederate line, with its similar makeup, overtook them as part of the weekend’s interactive “Generations” event hosted by Washington, D.C.-based American Battlefield Trust.

The Trust provided the period outfits for the smallest participants, including a straw hat and flowered apron for one little girl.

The Trust owns more than 150 acres at the battleground where nearly 3,700 men were injured or killed. It was a “quick, brutal fight” in temperatures that soared to 98 degrees, Kris White of the Trust told an assembled crowd of more than 100 prior to the battle simulation.

Outnumbered two to one, Union forces were pushed back to Culpeper following a Confederate counterattack led by native son, Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill. It was at Cedar Mountain where the famed Stonewall Jackson drew his sword, nearly rusted to the scabbard for lack of use, for the only time during the war to rally his troops.

It is also where Clara Barton performed her first official duty, tending to wounded on the battlefield in the days after the fight, though the Red Cross founder did not earn a mention during Sunday’s program.

“People actually fought, bled and died out here,” said Garry Adelman with the Trust. “When we simulate the battle, nobody actually dies.”

Intended to activate interest in history among young people, the Generations event attracted all ages and drew people from near and far. Joanne Price, of Bel Air, Md., visited Cedar Mountain with her husband, son, daughter-in-law and grandson, 12-year-old Tyler.

“We are history buffs,” said Mrs. Price. “Who goes to Gettysburg on July 3? I do.

“I’ve been a member of the Civil War Trust for many, many years,” she said of the renamed American Battlefield Trust. “We love this stuff.”

The wool blend blue coat may have been a bit much for her grandson.

“Grandma, I’m sweating,” he told her.

But the uncomfortable attire didn’t stop him from enjoying the event.

“It’s pretty cool; you get to throw stuff at people,” Tyler said after.

Asked what he learned, the sixth-grader at Magnolia Middle School in Joppa, Md., responded that the tactical formations were something new.

“I didn’t know they had to stand in lines on the battlefield,” he said.

He added he enjoyed visiting Culpeper for the weekend.

“It’s like real old and historic,” he added.

His father, Rich Price, said his interest in battlefield history was born from his own father’s interest.

“This is his deal,” Rich Price said. “He wanted us to come out as a family and experience it with him.”

A half-dozen re-enactors in gray, representing the Valley Guards, participated in the day’s activities and demonstrated what life would have been like at camp and on the battlefield. The actual Valley Guard was part of the 10th Virginia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, a militia that organized in the late 1850s in Rockingham County. The unit suffered 43 casualties in the 1862 battle at Cedar Mountain.

On Sunday, the smell of campfire drifted with the wind and so did smoke from Confederate guns booming from the farm field. Dark clouds eventually rolled away, revealing blue sky and sunshine.

“One of the main things we get out of this lifestyle is interacting with people, with you,” said Patrick Heelen of Culpeper, one of the Valley Guards. “We love history, but you can only get so much history out of a book.

“We want to know, what was it like to walk 20 miles a day? What did it smell like? We try to bring this experience alive.”

The wool jacket worn by Civil War soldiers would have weighed around nine pounds, he said. It was part of battle gear that totaled up to 50 pounds and included three days rations, gun, blanket, canteen and cartridge box. Loading a musket was a 10-step process, Heelen added, demonstrating the process, further noting that a well-trained infantry man could get off three rounds per minute.

Re-enactor Bobby Sapp wore his ancestor’s quilt wrapped around his body. He said it was the same quilt his ancestor was wearing when he was shot and killed at Gettysburg.

“This quilt is 156 years old and has been in my family for that long,” Sapp said. “It has blood stains inside the quilt from where he was shot twice.”

With its squares of faded plaids, purple flowered material and bits of white stuffing exposed, the quilt rarely sees the light of day, he said.

“It is falling apart. I shouldn’t wear it, but I like to bring it out,” Sapp said. “We do take this stuff seriously. We wear original stuff.”

He said he re-enacts for the dozens of ancestors who fought for the Confederacy.

“There is nothing better than going out on weekends and shooting at Yankees,” Sapp said, noting his fiancée, from Illinois, advised him not to say that. “It is a stress reliever. I can go through 200 hand-rolled rounds in a weekend.”

Heavy on Confederate history, Sunday’s Generations event included brief mention that the “Fried Chicken Capital of the World” is town of Gordonsville, from where Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army marched to fight at Cedar Mountain. Not mentioned was the fact that the town earned that name due to the African-American women who fixed and sold the delectable fare to feed train passengers passing through the war-torn area.

Attendees at Cedar Mountain were instead offered a taste of “hardtack,” provisions for Civil War soldiers that, as its name implies, is nearly inedible. There were also little packets of Goldfish crackers and oranges for the kids.

Participants at the local event donned 3D glasses to view bulging Civil War photos of dead horses and Union soldiers barely in their battlefield graves. The first photos of dead horses on an American battlefield were, in fact, taken at Cedar Mountain, Adelman said.

“The horror of war,” he described as children reacted with exclamations of, “Yuck!”

At Gettysburg, he continued, so many horses were killed, they were put into piles and burned, causing “a fog of foulness that wafted over the scarred countryside.”

“So keep this in mind when we’re out there,” Adelman said. “These places are hallowed ground.”

Michael Snyder, a grandfather from Pottstown, Pa., agreed. He brought two grandsons with him to the Generations program, one from Long Island, N.Y. and the other from Lancaster, Pa.

“I wanted to bring them down because of this idea of how important it is to get the younger generation interested in Civil War history and preservation,” he said.

Diane Logan, president of the Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, said the organization was thrilled to host the event, telling the crowd, “All of you are the future for keeping the history of these battlefields alive.”

 

Park Day 2019 at Cedar Mountain Battlefield

We certainly appreciate our community’s support
on Park Day, April 6, 2019!
You will be part of a national effort to keep America’s battlefields and historic sites pristine  to honor our nation’s history and provide memorable learning experiences and recreational enjoyment.

Details for Park Day:

Meeting place
HQ House at 9465 General Winder Rd, Rapidan, VA 22733, about 6 miles south of Culpeper on Rte 15. 8:30 am.
Planned activities
Building or repairing fences, clearing brush, trail maintenance, trash removal
Planned low-impact activities
Tidying indoor or outdoor areas
Should I bring any tools or supplies?
Work gloves, hat, sturdy shoes
Will refreshments be provided?
Yes, water and snacks
Is there a rain date?
No, the event will be cancelled.
Please note:
Advance registration will enhance duty assignments that match volunteer’s interest and skill. Please register to add your name to the list of volunteers