150 Years Ago: A few hundred yards difference

Success and failure on the battlefield is measured by a lot of small increments.  Sometimes it is hours… or minutes… or seconds.  Other times the measure is yards … feet … inches.  Such was the case 150 years ago on December 31st at the battle of Stones River.

As Confederate troops neared the Nashville Pike around noon, General William Rosecrans deployed what reserves he had.  For about two miles from Overall Creek to the Round Forest, the Federal lines bent back to the pike.  The pike was not just a terrain feature on the map, rather it was the army’s supply lines.  Losing that road meant retreat, route, or worse.  The nation could ill afford a second major military disaster in the month of December 1862. We often use the cliche “last ditch defense” to describe a position.  This was truly a last ditch defense.

On the far right of the defense, cavalry fought cavalry as Brigadier General John Wharton’s Confederates arguably missed the greatest opportunity of the battle.  Blue troopers from Colonel Lewis Zahn’s and Colonel Robert Minty’s brigades held their end of the line.

To their left, infantry from different divisions made a stand in the cotton fields around the Widow Burris’ house.  (Recalling yesterday’s post on preservation, those fields are outside the park boundaries.)

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Fields south of Asbury Lane today

The blue line fell back, disorganized at some points, but ultimately held – some two hundred yards short of the pike.

To the center of the line defending the pike, General Rosecrans committed his reserves.  That reserve was the Pioneer Brigade, some men with just twenty rounds.  Supporting them was the Chicago Board of Trade Battery and Battery B, 26th Pennsylvania.  Their lines formed barely 150 to 200 yards to the southwest of the pike.

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Position of the Chicago Board of Trade Battery

That part of the line held.

To their left, more infantry and artillery – a “grand battery” with over two dozen guns – anchored the defense of the high ground that is today the National Cemetery.  Lieutenant Francis L. Guenther, commanding Battery H, 5th US Artillery, held his fire as the Confederate infantry approached.  When urged to action by his commander, Guenther responded, “I see them sir. They are not near enough.”  When the Confederates marched closer, Guenther’s guns unleashed a rain of canister into their ranks.

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Gunner’s view across the pike from a Parrott Rifle

And that part of the line held.

At the Round Forest, Colonel William Hazen’s brigade was the core around which a stout defense formed.

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James Rifle at the Round Forest

The blue troops held the position against all the Confederates threw at the Round Forest.

Later that evening, some two hundred wagons arrived on the pike from Nashville bringing much needed ammunition and other supplies to the Army of the Cumberland.  The day’s fighting was at an end, and the results were inconclusive at best for either side.  But the arrival of those supplies ensured the Federals could stand their ground the next day.

And what did that next day bring?

Think not of the battlefield, but off the battlefield – the Emancipation Proclamation. As the wagons rolled into the army’s perimeter, an important executive order took effect.  Slavery would be abolished.  Of course, as politics would play into the actions, the order didn’t directly apply to those within sound of the guns that day.  But in time, slavery in the United States would be abolished.

The Army of the Cumberland held that day. A few days later they moved into nearby Murfreesboro as the Confederates retreated.  Long months passed before the army again moved forward, this time reaching the hills of northern Georgia.  But where the army went, it now carried emancipation as if an unfurled standard.

Those last few hundred yards beside the Nashville Pike were more than just grass, dirt, and trees.  It meant survival for an army and by extension the freedom of thousands well away from the battlefield.  One-hundred and fifty years later, we cannot disassociate the actions along the Nashville Pike from where we are, as a nation.

Stones River: The Preservation Story

Yesterday morning, we made a few stops prior to reaching Stones River National Battlefield, proper, and the sesquicentennial events.  One of those was a rather typical highway intersection.

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Gersham Lane and Franklin Road

On December 29, 1862, Federal cavalry pressed Confederate skirmishers away from this intersection.  The following day troops from Brigadier General Richard Johnston’s division of Major General Alexander McCook setup positions here.  The position was, for all practical purposes, the right flank of the Army of the Cumberland when the Confederate assault stepped forward on the morning of December 31.  This was the first objective in General Braxton Bragg’s attack plan.

But today this is about two miles, direct line, from the southern boundary of the Stones River National Battlefield.  In between is a school, shopping malls, residences, and a major interstate highway.  All ground contested during the battle.  Indeed many important sections of the battlefield were not included within the park boundaries. That begs the question – why wasn’t this major battlefield better preserved?

Let me offer the short version of that story here, but recommend Stones River National Battlefield Historic Resource Study by Sean Styles for further reading.  The story of the battlefield park starts in during the war.  Like many battlefields, a National Cemetery established during the war was a presence, giving the government at least some interest in the locality.  But a wartime memorial also served to attract visitors and veterans to the battlefield.

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Hazen Monument – the oldest surviving CW battlefield monument

The Hazen Monument, built during the war by veterans of Colonel William B. Hazen’s Brigade at the Round Forrest, where they fought with distinction during the battle.  The proximity of this monument and the national cemetery, just to the northwest, and the railroad line naturally made the site an attraction for travelers along that line.  That also eased logistics for veterans’ reunions.

Working along those lines, in 1906 the Nashville, Chattanooga, & St. Louis Railroad established a memorial on the other side of the railroad.

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Artillery Monument

The railroad also set aside the remains of Redoubt Brannan, visible from a passing train, as an attraction.

During the 1890s, in what historian Timothy Smith calls the “Golden Age of Battlefield Preservation”, Stones River was among the plans for additional reservations beyond the original five (Gettysburg, Shiloh, Chickmauga-Chattanooga, Antietam, and Vicksburg).  The Stones River Battlefield and Park Association secured options on several thousands of acres of land.  Prospects looked good, given the lobbying power of the veterans.  But despite several bills drafted, the proposal never gained traction.  Proponents were checkmated in 1912 with a report from Charles Grosvenor, then Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park commissioner, stating landmarks on the Stones River battlefield were “entirely obliterated.”  Whether that assessment was valid or not, I cannot say.  But given the extant landscape today, I’d say Grosvenor probably overlooked some features.

Not until after World War I did Congress again take up battlefield preservation.  Under the 1927 Act for Study and Investigation of Battlefields was Stones River considered again.  In March of that year, a small section of the battlefield, 300 or so acres, became part of the National Park system.  Small sections of additional acreage, transferred in the 1930s, brought the total to just under 400 acres.  Over the following decades the park benefited from several waves of improvement projects, from the New Deal’s WPA to Project 66.  But no major land acquisitions added to the land preserved within the park.

With the growth of Murfreesboro in the middle of the 20th century, development pressed on the battlefield.  The construction of Interstate 24 bisected the fields over which the action took place on December 31, 1862 (not unlike Monocacy battlefield and I-270 in that respect).  Over time, the land was, as Grosvenor said earlier, “entirely obliterated.”  But in 1992, the park nearly doubled in size with the donation of the last remaining sections of Fortress Rosecrans, opening the total park acreage to 570.  While significant of course, the fortress was a post-battle structure.

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Remains of Fortress Rosecrans

The statistic often cited in regards to preservation of Stones River is one fifth.  That is the fraction of the battlefield which lies within the national park.  As for the remainder, it is indeed “entirely obliterated.”  There is a lot of “what could have been” attached to the preservation of Stones River.  But there’s also much we should be thankful for.  One can still look across the fields and consider the actions of December 31, 1862 through January 2, 1863.

150 Years Ago: The Federal artillery at Stones River

With the battles of Fredericksburg and Stones River occurring in close proximity, calendar wise, we can make an easy comparison between the artillery parks of two major Federal armies – one in the east and one in the west.  Brigadier General Henry Hunt provided a very detailed report about Fredericksburg (along with a supplementary letter complaining about the 20pdr Parrott rifles).  The Army of the Potomac’s cannoneers manned 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, 10-pdr Parrotts, 12-pdr Light Field Guns (Napoleons), and a few 12-pdr field howitzers.  Hunt’s siege train included 20-pdr Parrotts (to his displeasure) and a few 4.5-inch rifles.   So with the exception of the 12-pdr howitzers, the Army of the Potomac fought with “new stuff.”

The Chief of Artillery for the Army of the Cumberland, Colonel James Barnett, filed a detailed report for Stones River in February 1863.   (Again, Fourteenth Army Corps, Army of the Cumberland, and Department of the Cumberland designations are interchangeable, somewhat.  Barnett prefaced his report as “Department of the Cumberland”.  I’ll ask the reader’s indulgence with the use of “Army of the Cumberland” to make the “army to army” comparison here.)  That report included a tally of the guns supporting each wing of the army:

Right wing, Second Division, composed of the following batteries: Battery A, First Ohio Artillery, Lieutenant Belding commanding, attached to General Willich’s brigade; Battery E, First Ohio Artillery, Captain Edgarton, attached to Colonel Kirk’s brigade; Fifth Indiana, Captain Simonson, attached to Colonel Buckley’s brigade, having the following guns: Nine James rifles, three 6-pounder smoothbore, two 12-pounder howitzers, two 10-pounder Parrotts, and two 12-pounder light field guns…

The artillery of the First Division is composed of the following batteries, and had the following guns: Fifth Wisconsin, Captain Pinney, attached to Colonel Post’s brigade; Second Minnesota, Captain Hotchkiss, attached to Colonel Carlin’s brigade; Eighth Wisconsin, Captain Carpenter, attached to Colnel Woodruff’s brigade.  Four 10-pounder Parrotts, eight 6-pounder smooth-bore, four 12-pounder howitzers….

The batteries of the Third Division are as follows: Battery G, First Missouri, Captain Hescock, attached to Colonel Schaefer’s (Second) brigade; Battery C, First Illinois, Captain Houghtaling, attached to Colonel Robert’s (Third) brigade; Fourth Indiana Battery, Captain Bush, attached to General Sill’s (First) brigade, with the following guns: Two 10-pounder Parrotts, four 12-pounder light field guns, two James rifles, six 6-pounder smooth-bore, and four 12-pounder howitzers….

Center – The artillery of the First Division consists of the following batteries: Captain Stone, First Kentucky Battery; Lieutenant Van Pelt, First Michigan Battery; Company H, Fifth U.S. Artillery, Lieutenant Guenther, with the following guns: ten 10-pounder Parrotts, two James rifles, two 6-pounder smooth-bore, and four 12-pounder light field guns….

The batteries of the Second Division, Brigadier-General Negley, are as follows: Company M, First Ohio, Captain Schultz; Company G, First Ohio Artillery, Lieutenant Marshall; Company M, First Kentucky [Second Kentucky Battery], Lieutenant Ellsworth, with the following guns: Two 12-pounder Wiard steel guns, two 6-pounder Wiard, four 12-pounder howitzers, two James rifles, one 6-pounder smoothbore, and two 16-pounder Parrotts….

Left Wing – The batteries of the left wing are the following: Company M, Fourth U.S. Artillery, Lieutenant Parsons; Company H, Fourth Artillery, Lieutenant Throckmorton; Company B, First Ohio Artillery, Captain Standart, attached to the Second Division; Tenth Indiana, Captain Cox; Eighth Indiana, Lieutenant Estep; Sixth Ohio Captain Bradley, attached to the First Division; Seventh Indiana Battery, Captain Swallow; Third Wisconsin, Lieutenant Livingston; Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania [Battery B, Pennsylvania Light Artillery], Lieutenant Stevens, attached to the Third Division, with the following guns: Four 3-inch rifles, ten 12-pounder howitzers, six James rifles, twelve 6-pounder smooth-bores, and sixteen 10-pounder Parrotts.

In addition Barnett mentioned the Chicago Board of Trade Battery under Captain Stokes with four 3-inch rifles and two James rifles.  Not mentioned in Barnett’s report are ten batteries assigned to the Center Wing’s unengaged forces (Third, Fourth, and Fifth divisions if you are counting).  Barnett also left out Lieutenant Nathan Newell’s section of the 1st Ohio, Battery D in support of the Cavalry Division; and Captain Cockerill’s 1st Ohio, Battery F which was in the Second Division of the Left Wing.

By Barnett’s count, the Army of the Cumberland at Stones River had 137 guns engaged at Stones River.  By type those were:

  • Thirty-two 6-pdr field guns
  • Twenty-four 12-pdr field howitzers
  • Twenty-three James rifles
  • Thirty-six 10-pdr Parrotts (The “16-pdr Parrotts” in the Center Wing is a transcription error)
  • Ten 12-pdr Napoleons
  • Four Wiard rifles
  • Eight 3-inch Ordnance rifles

Certainly a varied lot compared to the artillery supporting the Army of the Potomac.  Indeed, if you throw out the James and Wiard rifles, the list of types is closer to what armed the Army of Northern Virginia.  However, the Army of the Cumberland had a more favorable mix of rifles, with 71 total.  Although we know that the James and Wiards were not as well received as the Parrotts and Ordnance rifles.

I cited Barnett’s organization of the artillery above not only to show the weapon quantities and types, but also the assignments.  The Army of the Cumberland did not centralize control of the artillery at higher levels, and retained the “one battery to each brigade” pre-war practice for the most part.  Furthermore, there are a lot more junior officers commanding those batteries.  Consider even the Army’s chief of artillery was wearing colonel’s eagles and not brigadier’s stars.

Another point with the order of battle is the number of U.S. regular artillery formations.  There were really only two – Battery H, 5th US and combined Batteries H and M, 4th US.  And this translated into a shortage of “regular” artillery officers.  Barnett himself is a good example.  He was a senior officer in the Cleveland Light Artillery, a militia formation, before the war.  While a capable officer, he was not a Hunt or William Barry, with a career spent in the practical study of how to use artillery on the battlefield, notions of how to use it with greater impact, and a recently published manual on the use of artillery.

But I would not read too much into the differences between the artillery of the respective armies.  At Stones River the artillery played just as important a role in the outcome as at the major eastern battles.  The western artillerists could and did practice their deadly trade just as well as their eastern counterparts.

150 Years Ago: Wiggins Battery delaying the Federals

Back in November I highlighted the story of the “Gallant Pelham” using his horse artillery to delay the Federal advance at Unison. Allow me to offer a similar display of artillery, technically not “horse artillery” but at least accompanying cavalry, in the West. But this story is best framed by the words of those on the receiving end.

First, Captain John Mendenhall, commanding the artillery of the Left Wing of the Fourteenth Corps:

This army marched from camp, near Nashville, December 26, the left wing marching on the Murfreesborough Pike.

December 26, about 3 p.m., our advance was brought to a stand-still, near La Vergue, by a rebel battery. It was opposed by a section of artillery serving with the cavalry, which, being unable to dislodge them enemy, our advance battery (Captain Standart’s, Battery B, First Ohio) was, after a little delay, put in position an opened fire, soon silencing the enemy battery.

The Federal infantry pressing down the pike towards La Vergue was the brigade of Brigadier General Milo Hascall. In his report, Hascall indicated the Confederate artillery contested his advance to Stewart’s Creek. Hascall resumed the advance on the 27th, delayed somewhat by bad weather. But the rain was not the only thing holding up the advance.

… At half a dozen points on the way we were resisted by the enemy’s artillery; but Lieutenant Estep’s Battery, assisted by Maj. S. Race, in command of the artillery of the division, soon dislodged them, and we moved forward without allowing ourselves to be even temporarily detained, until we came to the eminence just in front of our camp, and which overlooks the bridge at Stewart’s Creek.

Lieutenant George Estep, 8th Indiana Battery, gave the Confederate gunners credit in his report of the action:

.. I could at no time (on account of the disposition of the enemy to retire) get an opportunity to fire more than two or three shots. I fired in all 42 rounds; that these were damaging to the enemy or his guns I am unable to tell.

But at last gaining a view of the bridge over Stewart’s Creek, Hascall’s attempts to gain the objective were again frustrated by the Confederate artillery:

Here we found the enemy had a battery planted on the hill beyond Stewart’s Creek. We had no sooner planted a section of Estep’s battery and opened upon them than they promptly returned our fire. The fearful accuracy of their fire soon convinced us that this was a different battery from that with which we had been contending all day, as every shot from them either struck or pieces or came within close proximity. Having no long-range guns in Estep’s battery, I sent to the rear for some out of another battery, and as soon as they had got in position the enemy’s fire was silenced.

Estep was on the receiving end of this Confederate fire:

In the last position which I took, commanding the Stewart’s Creek Bridge, I fired 8 rounds, and received about the same number in return; one of the enemy’s shots took a spoke from the wheel of one of my gun-carriages. I am happy to say no other damages were done.

The delay, as the Federals contended with this unnamed battery, allowed the Confederates to fire the bridge over Stewart’s Creek. Although the Federals (the 3rd Kentucky, if memory serves me) were able to secure the bridge and put out the fires, damage was done. As I mentioned yesterday, the engineers spent some time repairing the bridge there in order to facilitate the advance.

But Hascall didn’t face multiple Confederate batteries on December 26-27. He faced one. Captain Jannedens H. Wiggins’ Clark County (Arkansas) Battery supported Brigadier General Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry brigade, which was contesting the advance. Of the action Wiggins wrote:

On the evening of December 26, the enemy advanced upon La Vergne, and one section of the battery was advanced, under Lieutenant J.W. Clloway, to engage the enemy. During the engagement that evening we lost 3 horses and had 2 men wounded. That night the section under Lieutenant Calloway retired about a mile, and one section under Lieutenant J.P. Bryant was left in La Vergne on picket.

On the morning of the 27th, Lieutenant Calloway, with his section, was ordered to the front to engage the enemy again, while Lieutenant Bryant, with his section, was posted on a hill to the left of the pike and in rear of La Vergne, to relieve the retreat of Lieutenant Calloway. The battery retired to Stewart’s Creek that evening, engaging the enemy by sections alternatively. Loss that day, one horse. One section, under Lieutenant Braynt, was left on picket at Stewart’s Creek until Monday morning, the rest of the battery retiring further to the rear.

Wiggins indicated that the battery delayed the Federal advance again on December 29, using the same tactics. Throughout the next days, the battery split to support Wheeler’s cavalry operations and also Major General John C. Breckinridge’s division. Concluding his report, Wiggins reported, “The stock was very much exhausted, not having been unharnessed in six days.”

Again, let us say that given good placement, cool gunners, and solid leadership, horse artillery could hold an enemy at bay. That held true in 1862 in both Eastern and Western theaters of war.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 20, Part I, Serial 29, pages 453-4, 465, 475, and 965.)

Rosecrans’ Pioneer Brigade: A step towards Combat Engineers

When General William Rosecrans took command of the Fourteenth Corps (which would become the Army of the Cumberland), he recognized the need for engineering resources. The Army’s orders required campaigning across rough terrain and crossing several water-courses. Lacking a standing body of dedicated engineers, Rosecrans required the line infantry units to provide fatigue details for the engineering tasks.

Rosecrans’ chief engineer, Captain James St. Clair Morton, directed the detailed troops to tasks such as bridge repairs and road improvements through November and December. These troop details became a Pioneer Brigade under the command of Morton. Three battalions of infantrymen turned into engineers, supported by the Chicago Board of Trade Battery under Captain James Stokes, made up this Pioneer Brigade. The intent was for these pioneers to work building bridges, improving fords, building entrenchments, and generally performing other tasks with the shovel while the Army was on the move. But when battle neared, the details would return to the line commands.

That plan worked fine as Rosecrans directed his army out of Nashville in the closing days of December 1862. In his official report on the battle of Stones River, Morton noted the brigade constructed two bridges over Stewart’s Creek on the eve of battle. On the morning of December 31, the brigade’s task was to improve McFadden Ford on Stones River in support of Rosecrans’ planned move on Murfreesboro. But this move came to a halt with the Confederate attacks on the right side of the Federal lines.

After preliminary work at the ford, Morton’s Pioneers moved to a reserve position along the Nashville Pike. The flow of battle soon placed the engineers the most critical point in the most critical phase of the battle. Instead of working the spade or repairing some bridge, the infantrymen turned engineers were called upon to use the musket. Instead of returning to their respective line units, the pioneers fought as a line unit,

At some point during the action, the Pioneers constructed basic earthworks to protect access to the Nashville Pike. Some of those works are there today.

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Morton’s pioneers remained in the fight for the next two days, alternating between roles of infantry and engineer. Stokes battery, which remained in support much of that time, fired 1,450 rounds – a total surpassed by only three other batteries engaged in the battle.

There is a ready comparison, favorable on both counts, regarding the battlefield performance of engineers at Fredericksburg and Stones River. At Fredericksburg, a designated, organic engineer brigade enacted a river crossing under fire. At Stones River, a task force of infantrymen detailed for work as engineers performed combat engineering on the battlefield. No longer was the engineer soldier expected to toil behind the front lines, working a sweat but not exposed to enemy fire. Engineers were now combat troops directly augmenting the combat arms in the battle.

The “other” Brandy Station preservation story: Stevensburg

With last week’s good news about Brandy Station’s Fleetwood Hill still making the rounds through the preservation community, let me mention another “front” at Brandy Station which deserves attention – Stevensburg and Hansborough Ridge. For some time I’ve been tracking proceedings regarding the widening of Virginia Highway 3, which passes on the south end of the ridge and through Stevensburg. Now’s a good time for an update.

The project dates back to the 1990s when the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) looked to widen the highway to four lanes through Culpeper County. The focus for this particular improvement is a five mile section between Stevensburg and Lignum. While multi-lane thoroughfares in rural areas are nice time-savers, they leave a wide footprint. This same highway cuts through the Chancellorsville battlefield and the northern edge of the Wilderness. In the past, VDOT prepared several options for the improvement. One option, designated Alternative A, would for the most part expand the existing right-of-way (in blue on the map below). Alternative B placed a by-pass north of Stevensburg (shown as a red line red).


Notice the red shaded sections on the map. The solid red shadings are portions of the Brandy Station battlefield. The hashed sections are part of the battlefield study area. In this case where Colonel Alfred Duffié’s division approached the 2nd South Carolina and 4th Virginia Cavalry on June 9, 1863. The forces clashed roughly where the two “alternatives” diverge. Also seen on the map is another Civil War site. A green outline designates one of the many Army of the Potomac campsites from the winter of 1863-4. And I would point out that remains of those encampments are up there today – in some places the very stones remain in the places the soldiers left them as they departed for the Overland Campaign.

That in mind, you can see where any widening of Highway 3 would impact heretofore undeveloped sites of significance. According to VDOT’s documentation, Alternative A would require purchase of 9.7 acres of battlefield while Alternative B would require 26.3 acres of the battlefield (and over fifty within the study area). When the project funding converted from state to federal, Alternative B came off the table due to that factor and environmental impacts.

Late last year, another option floated to place roundabouts in an effort to ease traffic through Stevensburg. But the Commonwealth Transportation Board turned that down. What is left is “Alternative A” with a loss of acres of the battlefield and encroachment on nearby Salubria (which a colonial era house). Now county officials are saying, “The design is basically done, and the right-of-way is done and we would hope that you take advantage of this and get some construction done.”

VDOT indicates about 8,000 vehicles a day pass through Stevensburg on average. That is expected to increase upwards of 14,000 by 2035. But compare that to another VDOT project also aimed to widen a state highway –  Virginia 7 at Reston. This plan would open a road from four to six lanes. Today that section carries a daily average of 60,000 vehicles, and will increase to 87,000 by 2034. Do the math, Virginia 7 will carry over four times the amount of traffic by 2035.

Furthermore, if we are discussing safety, the number of reported accidents on that section of Virginia 7 likewise is many times greater than that reported in Stevensburg. The main thing keeping the fatal accident count down is the slow speeds due to traffic congestion. If safety is the main objective for the Stevensburg widening, then would a wider highway achieve that? Or would a safer alternative be to slow traffic down – as has been successful through the US Highway 50 corridor from Aldie to Upperville?

Both projects – Virginia 3 and Virginia 7 widening – carry roughly the same price tag, which begs the next logical question: where would the tax dollars be better spent?

Now sharp readers will point out that both highway projects I mention pass through battlefields. Yes! Dranesville. But as I’ve blogged before, Dranesville is a lost battlefield with less than “take what you can get” preservation. Hansborough Ridge is a case where encroachment and development can be stopped before the resource is lost. Putting a half-dozen or more wayside markers along Virginia 3 to discuss Hansborough Ridge is hardly an “offset” and isn’t all that can be done.

So where are the preservationists on this issue at Hansborough Ridge? Sadly, the organization that should be stepping up to say something is instead sitting by quietly. This is, after all, part of the Brandy Station battlefield which the Brandy Station Foundation (BSF) was created to protect. Shortly after taking over as President, Joseph McKinney put a lid on any actions by BSF in regards to the Virginia 3 widening. Rather bluntly, he called for all members of BSF (not just board members) to “let the residents decide the matter” and to live with that outcome. Since then BSF has submitted nothing for review in the pubic hearings, said very little during the hearings, and completely avoided the subject on their web site (and newsletter). [UPDATE: And BSF failed to provide any input for the Section 106 process, which was required of VDOT by the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act.  That process was designed to allow preservation organizations to “get a word in” and champion for the historical resources.]  Sadly, BSF seems more concerned with preservation of one particular structure in Brandy Station (where I’m told ghost hunters frequently pursue otherworldly cats) than actually advocating for the preservation of the battlefield itself.

At least BSF should step forward to advocate an option that does not damage the integrity of the battlefield. In other localities, by simply raising the discussion (even if losing round) and highlighting the historical treasure, preservationists have scored long term wins. In 2035, we shouldn’t be looking back at Hansborough Ridge as a “take what you can get” slice of preserved battlefield.

Christmas, Civil War, and Baseball

I’m taking a writing break for Christmas.  But if you need a dose of Civil War after opening all those presents and enjoying a good holiday feast, let me suggest an article from Smithsonian.com – That time 150 Years Ago When Thousands of People Watched Baseball on Christmas Day.

Seems that 150 years ago some New Yorkers stationed down on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, played some innings as part of the day’s entertainment.  I’m a bit skeptical on the estimates of spectators.  Common sense says the army wouldn’t let four-fifths of the troops loaf around watching a baseball game.  It wouldn’t be the only fanciful tale about the early days of baseball.  Still, we are probably missing an opportunity for a great sesquicentennial moment.

Happy Holidays to all.  And thanks for stopping by!