Back in the 1990s, I would often transit Northern Georgia on weekends. During those trips, I would make every effort to seek out the battlefields of 1863 and 1864. At that time, the only waymarks one could work from were a handful of state and WPA markers located along the I-75 corridor. So one had to “work” to get any feel for the battlefields and the flow of the major campaigns that played out across those hills and streams. One example is this marker on the Resaca battlefield:
(Photo courtesy HMDB and David Seibert.)
Located on US 41, the marker references action that took place almost, not quite, a mile ( a MILE!) west of the reader… on the other side of Camp Creek AND on the other side of I-75. At that time in the 1990s, the location referenced was simply inaccessible to all but the most persistent visitor – willing to wait for one of the rare on-site activities or coordinate with a landowner for access.
Fast forward to 2015. If you pick up the latest copy of Blue & Gray Magazine, you’ll see a teaser line on the cover – “New Georgia Battlefield Park!” Under David Roth’s response is the announcement that the Resaca Battlefield Park, which had faced several “roadblocks” last fall, is soon to open. This is long in coming. The Friends of Resaca Battlefield started the effort in 1994. With the help of Civil War Trust and others, there are some 1,100 acres of the battlefield preserved. Soon, we will be able to just drive over to Camp Creek and SEE the area which that marker… a mile to the east… speaks of. (Sorta makes the marker obsolete, doesn’t it?)
We like to hear those sort of success stories. Preservation coming to full maturity, where visitors are able to walk the field, appreciate the primary resource that the terrain is, and thus gain better understanding of the events.
With the success (and hopeful of the tentative July grand opening) at Resaca, let me turn your attention to a location here in Virginia that I’ve written about often – the battlefields and sites of Culpeper County. Starting in the 1990s, tracks of land around Brandy Station were purchased by preservation organizations. Likewise, the Friends of Cedar Mountain, and others, have brought substantial tracts of that battlefield into the “preserved” category. Counting those two battlefields and Kelly’s Ford, the Civil War Trust tallies over 3000 acres preserved in Culpeper County. Though much of that acreage is in preservation easement, a sizable amount is owned by the Trust or other preservation organizations. And beyond those three, there are a substantial number of sites where activity occurred during the war – minor battles, skirmishes, troop movements, and… yes, I mentioned it the other day… encampments.
However, there is no central point of orientation in Culpeper County for visitors. Furthermore, the preservation organizations which currently hold title to some of those lands are charged with the maintenance and upkeep – a detraction from other preservation efforts. But the biggest problem I see is the lack of a “center of mass” which the local community views as “the battlefield” … and from which better recognition of the historical resource would emanate.
It is no big secret that many of us have advocated for a proper battlefield park to cover Brandy Station. The acquisition of Fleetwood Hill in 2013 served to bring those ideas to a center of mass. Now I hear there are efforts afoot to create a state park in Culpeper County which would encompass these Civil War sites. Such would go a long way to accomplish the goals set forward in the 1980s – made in the face of hideous development projects. This is not to say there are not “roadblocks,” but I am confident there will be a Culpeper Battlefields State Park in our future. Let’s hope so.
Virginians, join me in calling upon our elected representatives to make this so!