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.