Monthly Archives: September 2012

The War Returns to Loudoun: Looking at the Loudoun Valley fights

I’m looking about a month out of the sesquicentennial schedule here, but there’s a couple of events coming at the start of November worth plugging into the calendar.   My title is a bit misleading, as even I would contend that the war never left Loudoun, Virginia in 1862.  Both sides sparred with regularity through the early fall during the lull after Antietam.  Stuart brought his cavalry back across the Potomac after his second ride around McClellan in the middle of the month.  But the war activity picked up when the Federals began movement into Loudoun Valley at the close of October.

Once into Loudoun, a series of cavalry fights occurred as the Federals advanced. I find these little known fights rather interesting for several reasons.  In some ways, the fighting resembled that which would occur eight months later in the same area, just oriented north-south instead of east-west.  The actions involved many of the same personalities and units engaged the following year.  Federal cavalry was, arguably for the first time in the war, employed as cavalry is supposed to fight.  As such, I’ve argued the Loudoun Valley cavalry actions were the first indications that Federal arm was gaining on their Confederate counterparts.  If you really want to appreciate what happened at places like Kelly’s Ford, Brandy Station, Hanover, Gettysburg, and beyond, you should start with the cavalry clashes of November 1862.

Looking a month out, there are three events that will focus attention on the Loudoun Valley fights of 1862.

On October 27, the annual Unison Heritage Day will focus on the fighting that took place around that community.   Hosted by the Unison Preservation Society, the event includes a tour and talk by battle historian Mitch Diamond, recreations of portions of the battle, living history displays, and a lot of less martial activities.  The date is not, strictly speaking, on the 150th of the battle, but close enough.

A few days later, on November 1, the Loudoun Sesquicentennial Committee, the Snickersville Turnpike Association, the Mosby Heritage Area Association, and Camp 21 – Sons of Confederate Veterans are hosting “Fighting at Philomont!” The event starts at 7:30 PM at the Roszell Chapel Methodist Church, 37141 Snickersville Turnpike, in Philomont.  Historian Brian Boucher presents “The Aftermath of Antietam: The War Returns to Loudoun”  The talk is preceded by lasagna dinner at the Philomont Firehouse.  Cost is $10 for adults and $6 for children.

Then on November 2, the Mosby Heritage Area Association hosts “From Unison to Fredericksburg” presented by historian Frank O’Reilly, at the Unison Methodist Church.  That talk starts at 7:30 PM.  I don’t have details as to admission or other logistics at this time.

Good to see the Loudoun Valley fights of 1862 getting their due this sesquicentennial.


National Public Lands Day: Other facets to battlefield use

At least once on every visit a “cannonball” park, I’ll encounter someone who’s out on the field for something other than touring the battlefield. Most often, such as at Manassas, the person is jogging or walking. But a good number of non-battlefield oriented visitors are just taking in the greenspace and enjoying nature. While not true “dual-use” this does indicate some visitors use the park’s resources for something other than that covered by the primary mission of the park.

For example, since I brought up nature and Manassas, that park is debuting its Stone Bridge Nature trail today. Timed for National Public Lands Day. From the Park’s Facebook page:

Just in time for National Public Lands Day, Manassas National Battlefield Park is proud to announce that we have a new natural resource cell phone tour along the park’s Stone Bridge Trail to go along with our current historical Henry Hill cell phone tour. To take the tour just pick up a rack card at the park visitor center, or at the head of the Stone Bridge Trail, enter the telephone number provided; (your cell phone minutes plan applies) then enter the trail stop number. New signs have been placed along the trail to direct visitors from stop to stop. You can stay connected while walking to the next stop or end the call and call back. This new cell phone tour highlights how the setting and climate has changed and provides other information on natural resources within the park. There is a tour for adults and another for children. These tours are currently offered English with a Spanish version coming soon.

National Public Lands Day (NPLD)?

Yes, I must confess, that is new to me. Apparently it’s been around since the 1990s. According to the day’s website, the National Environmental Education Foundation uses this day to promote popular enjoyment and volunteer conservation, in the spirit of the old Civilian Conservation Corps. The program is not just exclusive to national parks, or even just federal lands, but across a broad range of public lands.

The nature trail at Manassas and NPLD bring to the fore an interesting angle of visitor perspective to the preserved battlefields. While we battlefield stompers look across that bottom land near Stone Bridge and think about troop movements, other people will draw as much, if not more, enjoyment considering the natural setting. Of course there are times, such as when a doe and her fawns step out of the trees to munch on the grass, that all of us are nature lovers.

Regardless, that land is not there exclusively for a single group or class of users. And that is not to say there is contention or conflict over the use of battlefield lands. Quite the opposite. At places such as Manassas, preservationists and conservationists have more often than not worked in consort (although sometimes there is contention). There’s some common ground there – both metaphoric and physical.

The 150th Anniversaries have a way of drawing a crowd

From my files on Antietam, here the group photo from Antietam 147th Anniversary hikes:

Antietam 17 Sept 09 012

Probably about 80 folks. there in 2009.

Compare to the group photo from the 150th, this year:

Yep. Officially at 585. But several stragglers showed up after we got to the cornfield and pushed that over 600. Give or take a few.

As Robert wrote, there’s quite a number of us actively following the sesquicentennial.

While out at the Antietam 150th hikes, I finally got to meet Scott Manning. Although not a “Civil War blogger”… perhaps more of a general military history blogger… give me some time to work on him. He’s got a great post up covering the day’s activities. If you didn’t attend those hikes… well … you’ll have to work that much harder for your sesquicentennial certification!