Reed’s Bridge preservation effort: Chickamauga 2013 almost complete!

With all the activity of late, I almost forgot to highlight a preservation effort by the Civil War Trust at Chickamauga.  The effort targets 109 acres around the site of Reed’s Bridge, where the battle’s first actions took place on September 18, 1863.  As the historical articles on the Trust’s site indicate, this was an important clash that framed one of the war’s great battles.  The action involved Federal cavalry under Colonel Robert Minty (the best cavalryman you’ve never heard of) and Confederate cavalry under Brigadier-General Nathan Bedford Forrest.  Among the units deployed was the Chicago Board of Trade Battery, which was one of the best horse artillery batteries of the war.  Some time back, Don wrote a nice post on the actions of the 4th US Cavalry in the fighting at Reed’s Bridge.

All good historical background and justification to preserve the site.  As the Trust’s site also notes, the veterans recognized the significance of Reed’s Bridge and wanted it in the park’s original boundaries.  That didn’t happen.  So now over 100 years after the formation of the park, we have an opportunity to re-address that shortfall.

In recent days the Trust has announced they have made significant progress towards preserving Reed’s Bridge. The original price tag was $1.4 million.  But as explained in Jim Lighthizer’s introduction to this effort, grants have set this up as a 10-to-1 donation match:

…thanks to a matching grant of $700,000 from the federal American Battlefield Protection Program, and wonderful grant from the Williams Family Foundation of Georgia, another generous grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation in Chattanooga, plus additional major gifts from other local organizations such as our friends at the Georgia Battlefields Association and a former member of our Board of Trustees…

… we already have $1,260,000 in matching funds lined up and ready to go – which gives us fully 90% of the total funds needed.

If you and I can raise the final 10% – just $140,000 – to leverage and unlock this tide of matching money, we will save the most important unprotected ground at the biggest and arguably one of the most important battlefields of the entire Civil War.

Now, the Trust is reporting they are only $23,000 short of their goal. Once again, the Trust is closing in on a significant preservation purchase.  I urge you to consider contributing to this worthy effort.

Cool Springs Battlefield preservation: A win all around

From the Civil War Trust:

Commonwealth of Virginia, Civil War Trust and Shenandoah University Announce Public-Private Partnership to Protect Cool Spring Battlefield

Former golf course will become outdoor classroom offering university students hands-on experience in outdoor leadership and education, history and environmental studies; public will retain access to scenic property

(Clarke County, Va.) – This morning, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech joined representatives of the Civil War Trust and Shenandoah University to celebrate the successful completion of a public-private partnership to permanently protect 195 acres along the Shenandoah River that played a crucial role in the July 18, 1864, Battle of Cool Spring.” The event was part of the Commonwealth’s celebration of Earth Week 2013 and highlighted the project’s unique intersection of environmental benefit, educational opportunity and economic growth potential.

“I can think of no better way to honor the Commonwealth’s commitment to ensuring the protection and care of our state’s natural resources this Earth Week than by celebrating our partnership to conserve this site,” said Secretary Domenech. “With its sweeping views of the Virginia countryside, Shenandoah River access and historic pedigree, this land will be appreciated and enjoyed for generations to come.”

Virginia Director of Historic Resources Kathleen Kilpatrick agreed, adding, “Through this preservation partnership, the Cool Spring Battlefield will be far more than a passive historic site — this land is poised to become a dynamic, multi-faceted learning environment that will enhance educational opportunities in a variety of fields.” (Full Story Here)

And how did this all come together?

This portion of the Cool Springs Battlefield was part of the Virginia National Country Club (the other side of the battlefield, where some of the most significant fighting took place, is part of the Holy Cross Abby). When the country club fell into bankruptcy, the Trust and other parties first proposed adding the facility to the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority (NVRPA)system. The plan dropped when the Clarke County Board of Supervisors voted down the option to join NVRPA in March of last year. At the time, the supervisors left open other options to preserve the portion of the battlefield in question. I hoped that was the opening needed to follow through with another preservation plan.

Indeed, it was. In September, the Trust announced that Cool Springs was among seven battlefields benefiting from a generous state grant. Funding remained incomplete, so the Trust worked their magic:

Protection of the Cool Spring site was made possible through generous, competitively awarded preservation matching grants from both the federal and state governments. The American Battlefield Protection Program, administered by the National Park Service, contributed $200,000 toward the $2 million total purchase price, while the Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund — the most successful state level grant program of its kind in the nation — put forward another $800,000. Remaining funding was secured through a significant landowner donation and contributions from Trust members.

But this won’t be just some battlefield park with associated overhead costs. Instead, the battlefield, while remaining open to the public, was transferred over to Shenandoah University:

In 2012, the Civil War Trust negotiated to acquire the 195-acre former Virginia National Country Club following its bankruptcy. Recognizing the site’s unique potential as a community resource, the Trust began investigating a variety of partnership opportunities for long-term stewardship of the battlefield, before settling on what Lighthizer calls the “perfect solution” — transferring the property to Shenandoah University….

The university is currently evaluating options and developing proposals for specific programming to take place at the Cool Spring site. The property and surrounding environment has the potential to serve as an experiential learning campus for academic programs in the fields of outdoor leadership and education, environmental studies and history.

In addition, numerous possibilities are being considered to integrate the campus community as a whole through opportunities developed and implemented by Shenandoah University’s Division of Student Life. These co-curricular pieces are fundamental for enhancing a connection to the region, while promoting environmental stewardship. Furthermore, the Cool Spring site will afford local schools and the public at large with opportunities to explore the region through historical and natural interpretation.

At a minimum, this is a win for all concerned. What I do hope is this is further transformed into a greater victory with the university’s use of this property as an educational resource. Hopefully the curriculum which leverages Cool Springs will aid the development of preservation and conservation oriented planners.

Unearthing history at Moore’s Mill battlefield

Let me step back a bit, maybe a good bit, from the South Carolina stuff today. Time for some more news of Trans-Mississippi. From the Fulton (Missouri) Sun:

Unearthing history
Weekend dig in Calwood uncovers troop placement during Moore’s Mill

Calwood — As Mike Kisling and Westminster student Chris Leonard dig for treasure through the soft ground here with a spade and a small metal detector early Friday afternoon, they’re not searching for gold: They hope to strike lead.

And they find it. As a crowd of other “treasure hunters” gather around to see the new discovery, Kisling finally breaks apart a muddy clod to reveal a bullet they believe was fired from a .44 Colt variant, most likely fired by Union troops at ambushing Confederate guerillas during the Battle of Moore’s Mill.

Kisling and Leonard are two of about 55 students, researchers and volunteers searching through tracts of land for relics left over from Callaway County’s largest Civil War conflict this weekend as part of an archeological survey through the Missouri Civil War Heritage Foundation and its local affiliate, Kingdom of Callaway Civil War Heritage.

Students and researchers from as far as England began pouring into Callaway Thursday evening to prepare for dig efforts scheduled until today, weather permitting. Many came from history and archeology departments within Westminster College and Lindenwood University in St. Charles. The dig is sponsored through grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program.

Actual dig efforts began Friday morning, and by 2 p.m. surveyors had uncovered six bullets, one canister ball — a type of anti-personnel pellet fired from a cannon similar to grapeshot — and a ball puller — a screw used to remove a lead ball or other debris from the barrel of a gun in the event of a jam. (See story and pictures here)

During my archeology classes in Westminster, we excavated the site of a general store. Mostly postwar history and a lot of old bottle caps. Dog-gone! I wanted to find some cannister shot! I wonder if they will let me re-enroll for a semester?

I’ve written about the work in Callaway County on several occasions. Certainly glad to see the local Civil War history getting its due time in the spotlight. Particularly with the ABPP involved.

NPS Survey scheduled for Moore’s Mill Battlefield

Callaway County, Missouri’s Moore’s Mill Battlefield remains in the news. From the Fulton (Missouri) Sun:

State Civil War group earns grant to conduct survey on Moore’s Mill site

Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation and it’s local affiliate, Kingdom of Callaway Civil War Heritage, have announced they will conduct an archeological survey on the core area of the Battle of Moore’s Mill.

The county’s largest and most famous skirmish during the bloody national conflict, the Battle of Moore’s Mill took place July 28, 1862 near where is now known as Calwood. A survey is scheduled to occur there March 21-24.

When Kingdom of Callaway Civil War Heritage co-chair Bryant Liddle became aware of the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service, an organization which issues grants for surveying and protecting U.S. battle sites, the ball to get the survey underway began rolling.

“It was my recommendation to our local Civil War Heritage that we have somebody apply for this grant, and it went to the Missouri Civil War Heritage,” said Liddle. “They ended up applying for the grant, (and) received it … That will pay some of the expenses of the people doing the research, some of the transportation and the lodging.”

The survey will be under the supervision of Doug Scott of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Steve Dasovich of Lindenwood University in St. Charles, both of whom have worked on excavations of Civil War and other prominent American battle sites, including the infamous Battle of Little Bighorn.

I last mentioned this battlefield in relation to a search for gravesites.

This is a fine example of the work done under the American Battlefield Protection Program. With respect to battlefields, the work of the National Park Service does not end at the park boundaries. The ABPP provides a vehicle for work beyond those. The chance that Moore’s Mill would become a national park is very slim (the site is currently on private property). But that doesn’t mean the site should not be shuffled aside. The battlefields themselves are resources, or perhaps better stated “primary source materials,” for those studying the events. Surveys such as the one scheduled for Moore’s Mill provide the equivalent of a source index.

Culpeper biosolids hearing today: Another threat to Brandy Station (and other battlefields)

UPDATE:  The Culpeper BOS voted down the biosolids facility, 5-1.

This issue has been on my radar for some time. From the looks of it, things will come to a head today. From the Culpeper Star-Exponent:

BOS to discuss biosolids, roads

The Culpeper County Board of Supervisors will hear remarks concerning a biosolids storage facility and will host a public hearing on the six-year secondary road plan during April’s meeting Tuesday.

At last month’s meeting, the BOS accepted a request by applicant Recyc Systems Inc. & Padlands LLC to delay voting on a permit to construct a storage yard for biosolids on 220 acres just West of the Rappahannock River in eastern Culpeper County.

The proposed storage facility has been met with rancor from the public and preservation groups, who point out the land proposed by Recyc Systems is where four core battlefields intersect.

Community members have circulated a petition asking the BOS to deny the permit.

“Everybody is really concerned about the quality of life,” local developer Bob Courier said recently. “This is so close to the river, this is so involved with the environment there. It’s the only place in the state of Virginia where four core battlefields overlap each other.”

The battles of Kelly’s Ford, Rappahannock Station one and two and Brandy Station took place on the land.

March marked the second time the BOS delayed a decision on the facility. In February they approved a motion by Recyc Systems to move a hearing on the biosolids facility until March.

Recyc Systems president Steve Foushee explained during a meeting in February that the facility will be properly contained and any odor would not permeate the air and that the facility was safe.

“Everything will be contained on the inside of the building,” said Foushee. He said that breathable screens on the open ends of the structure would help to mitigate the smell and prevent water or snow entering the facility. He conceded odors are strongest when the material is wet. Vice president, Susan Trumbo, emphasized that they followed stringent Department of Environmental Quality regulations, when designing…. (Read More)

In past months, the Culpeper BOS has, while tabling the issue, indicated reluctance to grant the permit. Most of the locals have come out against the facility. This should be a done deal and the threat to the battlefields… plural … averted. But until the votes are tallied, don’t assume anything. Thus far opponents of the biosolids facility have led with concerns about the smell and environmental hazards. But as seen from the article, those concerns may be easily dismissed. That leaves concerns for the historical integrity of the land as the main defense.

Troubling, but predictable, is the silence of Brandy Station Foundation (BSF) on this issue. Once again, if you browse the BSF website, there are all sorts of announcements about Graffiti House. Oh, and there is the annual dinner that several people you might know were un-invited from. Yet nothing on this threat to the battlefield (sorry… battlefields) which the foundation was organized to preserve. BSF’s president has attended the BOS meetings, and made a statement or two. But nothing bold enough to inspire closure to the issue. Then again, this is the same BSF board which believes “it is generally not productive to officially oppose common property improvements, particularly when those improvements are reversible.” In the past, BSF would be at the fore of issues like this. However in the wake of last year’s controversy at Fleetwood Hill, BSF’s reputation is tarnished.

A quick look at the ABPP study map shows why the area is so important, and sensitive.

Culpeper county Battlefields (Click to Enlarge)

Indeed, if Virginia was the “seat of the war” then Culpeper was right in the middle of that seat. The whole or parts of eight battles spanning from the summer of 1862 through the spring of 1864. Armies on five major campaigns traversed the county. The portions of the Army of Northern Virginia and Army of the Potomac camped on that ground – for prolonged periods of time. There are soldiers still buried on those fields.

Over the last two or three decades, preservationists have fought to prevent the construction of a race track, major office complexes, and several smaller developments from destroying that ground. Although potentially not as damaging compared to the race track, the biosolids facility is a threat to battlefield preservation. At some point, sooner or later, one of these development threats will slip through. Unless….

Well unless those battlefields are formally protected. Although several small parts, mostly structures, inside those study areas are on state or national historic registers, none of the battlefields are officially designated today. In the past, political resistance and other roadblocks have prevented official recognition. Brandy Station was actually accepted on the list for a short time in the 1990s, but political pressure forced its removal. Portions of these battlefields are considered “eligible” for the National Register, due to the ABPP studies and pending applications. But that legal status is tenuous at best.

So why don’t we change that? Let’s put those battlefields on the National Register.  Call it a sesquicentennial initiative! And one that would ensure no future biosolids facility or office complex or race track is built over the sites of those eight battlefields.

More battlefield preserved at Bentonville

From the Civil War Trust:

North Carolina Natural Heritage Trust Fund Awards Major Grant for Battlefield Preservation

(Bentonville, N.C.) – The North Carolina Natural Heritage Trust Fund on Feb. 27 approved a $355,000 grant to acquire 120 acres that will become part of Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site. The Civil War Trust, the nation’s largest battlefield preservation organization, will be matching the state grant dollar-for-dollar using funds from the federal American Battlefield Protection Program, effectively allowing the state to acquire the land for half its total cost. With the completion of this project, the Trust and the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources will have partnered in the preservation of a total of 1,435 acres at Bentonville….

Each of the nine properties covered by the grant is adjacent to previously preserved properties, allowing this project to augment and enhance the preservation legacy at Bentonville. With the assistance of the North Carolina Natural Heritage Trust Fund, in particular, the Civil War Trust has been able to acquire historically significant battlefield land associated with the First, Second and Third Days of the battle.  Today, a total of 1,435 acres have been permanently protected at Bentonville, much of it through partnerships between the Civil War Trust, Bentonville Battleground Historical Association, the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site and the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources ….

With its proximity to Interstates 95 and 40, Bentonville has long been eyed by preservationists as a site potentially vulnerable to development. Today, Johnston and Wayne counties continue to experience long-term development pressure that is threatening the remaining rural landscape in the vicinity of Bentonville. This project will preserve open green space as well as the remnants of a battlefield that, in the words of the federal Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, had “a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war.” This combination of historic significance and pending threat, earned Bentonville a Priority I, Class A ranking in that congressionally-authorized report, the highest possible designation….

(Read the entire release here)

The release continues to describe the battle, fought on March 19-21, 1865, as covering some 6000 acres of ground.  So about a fifth of that is, or will be, directly preserved within the state park.

The Cole Plantation - Bentonville
The Cole Plantation at Bentonville, courtesy of CWT (Flickr page)