June, 2008

30 Jun 2008, by

A Rant

I’m going to rant about something unrelated to the Civil War now, so if things not related to the Civil War are of no interest to you, please skip this post. This one’s been brewing all month, and it’s time to get it out of my system. I recognize that some might be offended by what I’m about to say, and I regret that. I likewise recognize that some might consider me to be insensitive for what I am about to say. However, it’s how I feel, and I am not going to apologize for it.

Having driven more than 2400 miles this month, I’ve seen a lot of highways (many of them more than once). There are few things that I find more irritating than makeshift roadside memorials. For one thing, they’re terribly distracting. You can’t help but look at them, even if you don’t want to, as they stand out. That makes them unsafe. My eyes are supposed to be on the road, not on your makeshift memorial with the fake flowers and the deceased person’s favorite Big Johnson t-shirt attached to it. I don’t want to have to look at it. Neither do the rest of us.

For another, while I’m sure that erecting them makes the person who did so feel better, and I am sorry for their loss, I do NOT want to know about it, and I’m sure most other people don’t, either. I realize that misery loves company, but please don’t invite me to your pity party. Please don’t subject the rest of us to your misery. We didn’t know the person, which means that we don’t care. Truly, we don’t. That’s cold, but it’s the truth.

Finally, in the overwhelming majority of cases, it’s illegal to put this crap up in the right of way alongside the road. If the presence of these makeshift memorials means that weeds can’t be mowed, thereby making it even more unsafe than it otherwise would be, then I’m all for tearing the damn things down, even if that means hurting someone’s feelings. I also have no interest in having tax dollars go toward the upkeep of these things. There is absolutely no reason why even so much as a single penny of tax dollars should go toward the upkeep of something illegal and which has no business being there under any circumstances.

There. I feel better now. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….

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29 Jun 2008, by

It’s Over.

Hell month is over. I survived.

I’m just home from the Gettysburg: Retreat and Pursuit seminar put on by Mark Snell at Shepherd University. This makes four straight weekends that I’ve traveled at least 350 miles to do an event, and wow, am I beat.

The weekend was interesting, to say the least.

It didn’t get off to a good start at all. After meeting Ted Alexander in Hagerstown on Thursday afternoon to lay one portion of the tour, I drove on to Shepherdstown to check into the hotel and got the extraordinarily unpleasant news that there was no room reserved for me. Never mind that I was the tour guide for the event, there was no reservation for me. Mark’s assistant told me that the hotel screwed up the reservation, that they had reserved 25 rooms and only got 20, meaning that there were others who also did not have reservations. It got worse. I was told to go to the nearby Clarion Hotel and wait there, that Mark’s assistant Denise would meet me there. After sitting in the lobby like a moron for half an hour, no Denise. By then, I was so angry that you could have fried eggs on my forehead. I ended up having to change my clothes in the men’s room of the lobby of the hotel, which was terribly embarrassing. Denise ended up giving me her room at the lovely Bavarian Inn, which is just across the street from Shepherd’s campus, overlooking the Potomac River and Blackford’s Ford. All was eventually forgiven, but it was not an auspicious beginning.

One of the very cool things about this seminar was that a couple who attended last week’s program also attended this week’s. It was great fun having them along again. At dinner last night, I told them that if they want to see me next weekend, they’re going to have to come to Columbus to do so. 🙂

Mark opened the program with a good talk on Union logistics that he finished putting together about five minutes before show time. I enjoyed sitting and chatting with Drs. Chris Stowe and Tom Clemens. I’ve known Tom for 15 years, but I just met Chris for the first time this weekend. He’s a good guy, and I enjoyed getting to know him and further enjoyed chatting with him. Kent Masterson Brown was the “scholar in residence” and the keynote speaker, and he gave an excellent talk on the logistics of the retreat from Gettysburg. I then had a couple of beers with the gang at the Center and had a really interesting discussion with Chris Stowe there.

Eric with Kent Masterson BrownTo be honest, I was a little worried about how things would work with Kent. He’s used to being the star of these retreat tours–for good reason, since his book has been out for several years and is an excellent work–and I’m something of an upstart. There’s also the issue that our work, although intended to complement his, could be construed as competition. Fortunately, I’ve known Kent since 1993 or 1994, and we worked together extremely well this weekend. He picked up where I left off, and vice versa, and I was perfectly happy to permit him to take the lead on the things where he’s the acknowledged expert. It worked like we’d been a team for years, which was very gratifying.

Friday morning, Chris gave an excellent talk on George Gordon Meade and the retreat, followed by a fine talk on the Wagon Train of Wounded by Ted Alexander. I felt kind of bad for Chris. Mark Snell insisted that he do his very silly but spot-on impression of Ken Burns’ God-awful cameo in the movie Gettysburg, to Chris’ embarrassment. He’s a trooper, though, and did it, to lots of laughs.

We then boarded the bus for a trip to Gettysburg to tour the new visitor’s center and a number of hospital sites from the battle. A former student of Mark’s named Nick Redding, who works for the Civil War Preservation Trust as a grants associate, served as the guide. Nick’s very young, but he’s a very impressive young man with an incredibly bright future. He did a terrific job leading the tour, which included a stop at the newly-acquired George Spangler farm (where Brig. Gen. Lewis Armistead died of his Pickett’s Charge wound). It turns out that we were the first group taken on the property. After dinner, we then returned to Shepherdstown by following the route of the Wagon Train of Wounded. Kent sat next to me on the bus and directed the driver, which was a tremendous help to me.

Saturday morning was my day. We drove up to Gettysburg again, and Mark surprised me by asking whether we could make a brief detour on the way. Mark lives near Gettysburg, and he has a period farm there. He’d just had the pond on his property dredged, and he simply could NOT wait until today to see the work. We HAD to detour by his house to see the reincarnation of the results of the Battle of the Crater in his yard. My guess is that the extra stop proved to be the reason why we had to cut out a stop at the Cushwa Basin on the C & O Canal in Williamsport, where a significant portion of Lee’s army waded the Potomac River on July 14, 1863. Well, okay, maybe not. But I had to give Mark lots and lots of grief (which isn’t actually all that difficult to do, by the way). After Mark inspected Lake Superior, we finally got to do what we went to Gettysburg to do.

As I mentioned above, the tour went very well indeed. I added a new stop to the tour at the site of the July 12, 1863 fighting for Hagerstown, which was a site Kent had not visited previously. We had a hard and fast time to be back in Shepherdstown for dinner, so we had to drop the last stop at the Cushwa Basin, but that really didn’t inhibit things. Folks came away from the tour with precisely the response we’d hoped for, which is an appreciation for the ordeals of the soldiers, the remarkable movements of the armies, and the fact that there was plenty of fighting during the retreat and not just Meade letting Lee go, as is so often portrayed. We got back to Shepherdstown just in time–a hellacious thunderstorm blew in as we were finishing dinner. There was a period musical program last night, but I only made it through half of it before hitting the wall and having to go back to the hotel and collapse. I fell asleep at 9:45 watching TV. It’s very tiring having to be “on” all day.

This morning, there was a really good talk about preservation of sites along the retreat route by Tom Clemens and a lengthy panel discussion that was a lot of fun. Once that ended, it was time for me to hit the road. After another miserable six hour drive, I got home. Hell month is finally over. I actually get to stay home for three whole weeks before Ted Alexander’s Mother of All Gettysburg Seminars the last weekend in July. I can’t wait to just have some down time to decompress. I can tell you this–I’m sick to death of driving at the moment. For now, stick a fork in me. I’m done.

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With apologies to William Shakespeare…

Tomorrow, I’m on the road yet again. This time, it’s off to Shepherdstown, WV for Mark Snell’s Gettysburg retreat seminar. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends like Mark, Ted Alexander, and Tom Clemens, but I can’t say I’m too keen on yet another 6 hour drive tomorrow.

I’m leading a tour of the route of the Wagon Train of Wounded on Friday evening, and then a full-day tour of battle sites from the retreat on Saturday. I’ve got a panel discussion on Sunday morning and then home, at which time my June insanity will finally be over, a couple of thousand miles later.

I will try to post while gone, but I make no guarantees.

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Andrew Duppstadt wrote me privately yesterday and asked if I’d be interested in seeing the response of the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation to all of the criticism that’s been flying. I said sure, and in the interest of fairness, I quote the letter here verbatim:

June 23, 2008

To Our Reenactor Partners, Sponsors and Supporters:

There has recently been some negative and misleading publicity about the successful efforts of the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation to secure a binding agreement from O-N Mineral’s, (Carmeuse) to support preservation efforts and contribute to the shared goals of creating a reserve of property for further preservation efforts. We felt that we owe it to all of our reenactor partners, sponsors, supporters and the public to set the record straight. Contrary to the negative and incomplete information spread by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Belle Grove, Inc., the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation stood alone and successfully took the initiative to preserve and protect core battlefield land and artifacts.

After twenty years of intense and dedicated preservation efforts on the part of the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, (“CCBF”), we are deeply saddened and surprised that any entity would issue a public statement that so inappropriately characterizes the activities and intentions of the CCBF and its members. For this reason, we believe the facts concerning our relationship with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Belle Grove, Inc., (collectively designated “Belle Grove”), and Carmeuse, (the “Quarry”), need be disclosed.

CCBF held its first reenactment in 1990, and since that time has occasionally used additional property from Belle Grove, depending on the number of reenactors attending an event. In 1999, Belle Grove required a payment of $6,000 for the use of a few acres behind the plantation and reserved the right to cancel the agreement at anytime and for any reason. CCBF considered this unacceptable, and for the next several years, the event was held solely on CCBF lands. CCBF rented land from Belle Grove for the 140th Anniversary Reenactment in 2004, and through 2007. In addition to paying all the expenses associated with hosting the reenactments, CCBF has paid over $68,000 to Belle Grove since 1999.

First and foremost, our reenactment will continue this fall as it always has. Through the hard work of our many dedicated reenactors, sponsors and volunteers, we will continue our reenactment activities as scheduled on October 18 & 19, 2008, so that preservation, educational activities and respect for our heritage and history can continue. The reenactment will take place on the core battlefield lands owned by the CCBF, as it has for many years. The CCBF Board voted several months ago not to use the Belle Grove property this year due to the high cost of renting the land ($5,000 for 3 days).

FACT – After almost two years of waiting for the local preservation partnership group to negotiate a position, two weeks before the quarry rezoning public hearing, the CCBF stood alone in attempting to negotiate with the Quarry to ensure responsible preservation efforts and responsible land use. Ever since the rezoning issue appeared, our organization had opposed the application, because none of the concerns the CCBF raised had ever been adequately addressed. However, it also became clear to our board members that the “just say no” policy was not a practical position to take when we learned that the limestone vein adjacent to the Battlefield was of the highest quality valued at least $300 million dollars. With the prospect that the Quarry operations would continue as planned, CCBF alone sought to intercede, negotiate and obtain commitments from the Quarry that would enhance and continue our preservation efforts. We were able to secure such an agreement from the Quarry and, more importantly, secured an agreement that would bind the Quarry whether or not its rezoning efforts succeeded.

On April 23, 2008, just hours before the Frederick County Board of Supervisors public hearing, CCBF President Hirschberg signed an agreement with the Quarry guaranteeing the following:

Berms: To improve and enhance the viewshed, the Quarry will reduce the height of the berms around the pits that are visible from the Heater House fields and main battlefield. In addition, the Quarry will landscape the berms with a mixture of deciduous and coniferous plantings. The agreement reached between the Quarry and CCBF was crafted to eliminate or significantly reduce the visibility of the existing processing plant when viewed from Route 11. For two decades, the number one complaint from both reenactors and spectators has been having the processing plant as the backdrop to the battlefield. We believe protecting the viewshed is critical to the experience that our reenactors and visitors enjoy. Its mitigation will become the single most important improvement to the vista of the entire park for years to come. This was the result of simply meeting one-on-one with the Quarry, and sharing our concerns. Berm construction will not occur in areas identified as historically significant.

Cultural Resources: An eight acre tract previously identified as historically significant will be donated to CCBF within sixty days of the signing of the agreement. The Quarry and the CCBF have also agreed that there exists other historical resources, (U.S. VI Corps camp area), immediately adjacent to the eight acre parcel which may encompass an additional twenty acres more or less. These acres will also be deeded to the CCBF upon the completion of an archaeological study to confirm its significance. A joint archeological survey by Dr. Clarence Geier and Dr. Joseph Whitehorne, (both noted experts on the Civil War), will be conducted on all other properties under consideration for rezoning and such studies will be paid for by the Quarry.

Artifacts: All artifacts discovered will become the property of the CCBF and will be held in trust for the public benefit.

Additional Land Donation: As part of the agreement, other newly discovered areas of historical significance, (such as an area known locally as the Middletown Woods), may also be deeded to the CCBF. As a result, more core battlefield may/will be donated to CCBF pending the conclusion of the archeological survey.

In addition to the items mentioned above, the Quarry decreased the acreage in the rezoning application, (from 639 acres to 394 acres), restricted the number of truck loads to 86 per day, and instructed drivers to avoid Belle Grove and Chapel Roads. Also, CCBF has begun discussions with the Quarry concerning the possible placement of preservation easements on substantial amounts of core battlefield land.

In summary, CCBF has at all times acted honestly, responsibly and in a manner believed to be in keeping with the Foundation’s mission statement. Our efforts have always depended on the sustained goodwill and dedicated efforts of our many reenactors, sponsors and volunteers who have enabled us to preserve this important national treasure known as the Cedar Creek Battlefield. Our actions were intentionally designed to ensure that the preservation efforts of the past are enhanced, additional battlefield land is immediately secured, and strategies are implemented that will lead to future battlefield and artifact protection.

We look forward to seeing you on October 18 & 19.

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation,

Suzanne Chilson
Executive Director
Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation
P.O. Box 229
Middletown, Virginia 22645

While I appreciate Ms. Chilson’s efforts and explanations, the fact remains that the CCBF dropped the ball on this one, big time. The explanations just don’t ring true, and I cannot buy into the idea of appeasement. There are times to negotiate, and there are times to draw a line in the sand. This was a time to draw a line in the sand, and I cannot forgive the failure to do so. I remain persuaded that the time for the CCBF to be the steward of this battlefield has ended.

Thanks to Andrew for passing this along.

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Potomac Books published my book The Union Cavalry Comes of Age: Hartwood Church to Brandy Station, 1863 in 2003. This is one of my favorite of my projects just because it deals with stuff that is seldom addressed. I also had a great deal of fun documenting cavalry operations in the Chancellorsville Campaign in putting it together.

A year ago, Potomac Books decided to remainder the rest of the hardcover inventory of the book and to let the hardcover version go out of print. I didn’t agree with the decision, but nobody asked for my opinion, and more importantly, nobody gave a damn about my opinion. However, at that time, I was assured that the softcover version was still selling well and that it would not be permitted to go out of print. So far, that part has been true. It is still in print. Which is too bad. I will explain the reasons why I wish it wasn’t.

Lately, I’ve been noticing that resellers are selling the softcover edition of the book at the sorts of prices one would expect of a book that’s been remaindered. You can buy a brand new copy for about $5 on the marketplace. At the same time, the book is still for sale at retail prices on and at a slight reduction on the Potomac Books site.

When I called the marketing director today, he informed me that they had sold most of the remaining inventory in an “inventory reduction” sale. Allegedly, they had too much inventory, and they needed to reduce the inventory and generate cash flow. However, there are still about 100 copies in the publisher’s inventory, meaning that it’s still in print and still available.

This is the worst of all possible worlds. First, and foremost, I don’t get paid a dime of royalties on “inventory reduction” sales or on remaindering. Second, it means that as long as the book remains in print, I can’t get my publishing rights back to try to take the book to the University of Nebraska Press. In short, I’m trapped. I told Sam that if he was willing to sell the book to me for what they sold it for in the “inventory reduction” sale, I would buy all of the remaining inventory, provided that they revert my publishing rights to me as part of the deal. He said he would think about it and get back to me with an offer. Something tells me that I’m going to continue to be trapped in this miserable situation for the foreseeable future.

I’ve got a publisher that doesn’t give a damn about me or my book, but which also refuses to allow it to go out of print so I can get my publishing rights back. Tomorrow, per my rights under the contract, I will compose a letter requesting that the rights to both the hardcover and softcover editions of the book be reverted to me the moment it goes out of print. My only hope here is that Sam will make a deal with me to buy the remaining inventory very soon so that I can get my rights back.

There are aspects of the publishing business that suck massively.

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I’m home. Again. For three days again. And then it’s on the road again….

Here’s a report on the weekend.

I left here on Thursday morning. I left early, intending to spend a couple of hours at Cedar Creek on the way. Just as I hit Winchester, it started to rain, so my stop at Cedar Creek was just to see whether I could buy a pin (they don’t sell them). I remain absolutely horrified and repulsed by the decisions made by the Cedar Creek Foundation. Maybe it’s a good thing it was raining.

I got to Culpeper at about 4:00 (it’s a 7.5 hour drive of nearly 450 miles to Culpeper) and tracked down Mike Block, who is a trustee of the Brandy Station Foundation. Mike was my good right arm this weekend, and I couldn’t have done it without his help. We had to finish up getting permissions from landowners to go on private property. Once we finished that, I had dinner with Ken Ramsey, who was filling in for Bob Maher as the official representative of the Civil War Education Association. Never mind that Ken lives here in Columbus and that we could have dinner together any time. We had to go to Culpeper to do so. 🙂 I then did an overview and met the tour participants.

Friday, we hit the road. We began the day atop Pony Mountain, which was an important signal station for both sides during the entire war. It has a spectacular view. From there, it was out to Kelly’s Ford, followed by a hike out to the Pelham marker at Wheatley’s Ford. Once we did that, we covered the Battle of Brandy Station. We must have hiked the crowd five miles, much of it through fields. I told the participants to wear long pants due to ticks, but one particularly adventurous woman did all of this hiking in capri pants and a pair of sandals. I was impressed. We took folks on a number of parcels of private property, and they got to see things at Brandy Station that only a tiny percentage of visitors ever see, including a picnic lunch at the Graffiti House and being the first tour group to spend time on the latest land acquisitions at Fleetwood Hill. One of the highlights of the day was a visit to Auburn, the John Minor Botts house. I’d never been on the grounds before, and it’s a cool spot that probably saw more cavalry fighting than any other house in North America.

My friend Karl Fauser joined us Friday, and Karl did a fabulous job of documenting the day. His photo essay can be found here.

I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t mention the absence of Bud Hall. Bud was supposed to be with us, but a family situation prevented him from being there. This tour was at least as much his as it was mine. What I know about that battlefield, I learned from him. My tour is based on his. The contacts that got us onto private property were his contacts, developed over a quarter of a century. He was definitely missed. I can only hope that we did him justice there.

When we got back, Ken and I had dinner again, and while at a local place getting ice cream, I ran into old friend Melissa Delcour, who lives just outside Culpeper. Melissa was also supposed to be with us for the weekend, but she’d also had something come up that prevented it. It was great to see her, and we made plans to have dinner together last night. I was asleep by 10:15 after a LONG day in the sun.

Saturday, it was off to Trevilian Station. I had something happen on Saturday that has never happened before, and which, to be honest, weirded me out. We had a father and son along with us for the entire tour, as they have an ancestor who fought with the 5th Virginia Cavalry in all three of the major engagements that we addressed. The son is 17, and a nice young man. His mother was along, too, as the family was going somewhere after the weekend of touring. The mother is such an overwhelming helicopter parent that she insisted on following the bus 35 miles to the Trevilians battlefield, just to make sure that the area met with her approval. My first stop on this tour is at a place called Ellis Ford, which is the next ford on the North Anna River to the west of the one that Sheridan used, as the ford he used, Carpenter’s Ford, is under Lake Anna, and Ellis Ford is good for illustrating the crossing. The Ellisville Road gets little traffic, and I have had numerous busloads out there, often standing in and along the road. The mother evidently didn’t like the fact that we were in the road, and after she finally left, she evidently lectured her husband on the dangers of being in the road last night. Fortunately, she only stuck around for one stop on the tour, or I would have insisted that she leave, because it was distracting to the group. Also, she consistently tailgated the bus, which was unsafe and which Tommy the Wonder Driver found very disconcerting. I’m not sure whether to be amused by this ridiculous, outrageous conduct or horrified by it. All I could think of was, “that poor kid.”

The tour was great. I’ve long been extremely comfortable with leading that tour, as I’ve done so many times. We hit all of the spots on my standard tour, which includes about a dozen stops. Ed Crebbs, a former president of the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation came by at lunchtime to talk about the preservation effort at Trevilian and do a little fundraising, and was very successful in his efforts. I added a new stop today, at the Exchange Hotel Civil War Museum in Gordonsville, which was the first time I’ve gotten there early enough in the day to stop and take the group in to see the museum (the Exchange Hotel was a hospital for most of the Confederate wounded from Trevilian Station). It was very warm and humid, and it’s also exhausting having to be “on” all day, so it was a tiring day. We got back early, and I grabbed a shower and had a delightful dinner with Melissa Delcour at a delightful restaurant in downtown Culpeper called The Hazel River Inn. I was again asleep by 10:15 or so last night.

One of the highlights of the day yesterday was having my friend Scott Patchan along. Scott and I spent a lot of time discussing lots of interesting things over the course of the day yesterday, including his very intriguing theory about Sheridan’s lack of active participation while serving as the commander of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps. I was really glad to have Scott along, and I really enjoyed chatting with him. It’s been a while since I’ve last seen him, and I enjoyed it.

This morning, we covered the September 13, 1863 Battle of Culpeper Court House. We had two stops, at Greenhill, where much of the fighting occurred, and at the train depot in Culpeper, where the battle ended. Our final stop of the day was the Culpeper National Cemetery. There are battle dead from Brandy Station and Trevilian Station there, and it just seemed like the ideal place to end the tour. We were back at the hotel by 10:00, and I hit the road almost immediately.

Some of the tour participants mentioned going to visit the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park, so I decided to do the same, for a very quick visit to add a pin to my hat. I drove over to New Market, bought the pin and some maps of several different battles and then headed north. I got off I-81 at Tom’s Brook and took the Valley Pike (Route 11) north all the way up to Kernstown. Towns like Strasburg are just gorgeous, and I really enjoyed going past all of the many battlefields that line the Valley Pike between Tom’s Brook and Winchester (Kernstown, Fisher’s Hill, Cedar Creek, Tom’s Brook, among others). And then home.

I’m home until Thursday, when I hit the road again, this time for Mark Snell’s retreat from Gettysburg seminar at Shepherd University next weekend. It’s going to be another week of cramming five days’ worth of work into three before I finally get to rest.

I’m going to bed early again tonight, only in my own bed this time.

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A reader forwarded this appalling article to me today:

Drastic Expansion of Mining Operations Threatens Belle Grove Plantation and Cedar Creek Civil War Battlefield
Blasting, Quarry Truck Traffic, Noise and Multi-Story High Waste Piles Will Alter Historic and Rural Gem of the Shenandoah Valley

Washington, DC – June 18, 2008 – The National Trust for Historic Preservation today reaffirmed its strong opposition to radically expanded mining operations proposed in and around Cedar Creek & Belle Grove National Historical Park. Cedar Creek and Belle Grove are situated in a rural landscape whose centuries of historical and cultural significance include 18th century Shenandoah Valley settlements, 18th-19th century plantation lands and Civil War battle grounds. The Belgian mining conglomerate Carmeuse Lime & Stone has recently won county approval to move ahead with mining activities, including blasting and increased quarry truck traffic, which could destroy the character of the visitor experience at Belle Grove Plantation, a National Trust Historic Site and National Historic Landmark, and the Cedar Creek Civil War battlefield.

“The National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has owned Belle Grove Plantation for 44 years, is dismayed that intrusive mining activities could destroy the character of sites of tremendous national and regional significance,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. ”Preservation of these irreplaceable cultural landscapes and buildings, rich in our nation’s history, is one of the highest priorities of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and we will do everything we can to protect them from irreparable harm.”

Recently, the Frederick County Board of Supervisors, by a vote of 4-3, approved Carmeuse’s destructive proposal despite opposition from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Belle Grove Inc., (which manages the plantation site), and a broad coalition of partners and local residents, alarmed that the quarry operations will destroy the tourism industry and their way of life. Experts agree expansion of the quarry will harm Belle Grove, which dates to the late 18th century, and the Cedar Creek battlefield, the region’s most significant Civil War site. Already, multi-story high mounds of mining waste are intruding on the site’s world-class vistas. Each year tens of thousands of visitors come to the area because of its history. Proposed blasting would damage historic structures, bulldozers would destroy acres of core battlefield land adjacent to the National Historical Park, and dust clouds, noise, and increased quarry truck traffic would diminish the visitor’s experience.

The threat is so severe, the Civil War Preservation Trust in 2007 and again in 2008 listed the Cedar Creek battlefield as one of America’s most-endangered Civil War battlefields. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Belle Grove, Inc., longtime stewards of the 18th-19th century plantation and the Cedar Creek Civil War battlefield, fully intend to pursue avenues that will mitigate, reduce and avoid harm to Belle Grove, and the cultural and historic resources within and adjacent to the National Historical Park, but hope that congressional action can halt the mining expansion altogether.

As one signal of their opposition, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Belle Grove, Inc. are suspending any involvement with the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation and prohibiting their use of Belle Grove for their annual Civil War re-enactment. Although the two non-profits recognize the value of Civil War commemorative activities, including re-enactments, as dynamic educational and tourism programming, they are suspending their relationship with the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation because of the Foundation’s sudden reversal on the mining issue. On April 17, the president and executive director of the Foundation assured the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Belle Grove of their opposition to quarry owner Carmeuse’s mining proposals. Yet on April 23, without notifying the National Trust for Historic Preservation or Belle Grove, the foundation publicly testified before the Frederick County Board of Supervisors they “took no exception” to the quarry expansion, essentially approving the proposal. On the same day, the Foundation struck a deal to accept a gift of 8 acres of land from the quarry owner. The Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation’s conduct has undermined generations of work to protect the historic plantation and battlefield and has strained the public – private partnership that was established by Congress in 2002 to plan the future management of the National Historical Park.

“We certainly respect the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation’s past contributions to the stewardship of the battlefield. But we cannot silently and passively overlook the Foundation’s recent actions, which were taken unilaterally and without the prior knowledge of its partners in the overall preservation effort,” said Anne Buettner, president of Belle Grove, Inc.’s Board of Directors. “As a result, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Belle Grove, Inc. cannot host the Foundation’s October 2008 re-enactment on Belle Grove lands, when they have taken actions that tend to undermine the efforts of their partners and that jeopardize the region’s treasured historic sites and Civil War heritage. Belle Grove and the National Trust will, as always, commemorate the anniversary of the 1864 Battle of Belle Grove or Cedar Creek with a weekend of special events, speakers and interpretive programs in the historic Manor House and on its lawns and surrounding fields, hosted separately from any other events.”

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a non-profit membership organization bringing people together to protect, enhance and enjoy the places that matter to them… By saving the places where great moments from history – and the important moments of everyday life – took place, the National Trust for Historic Preservation helps revitalize neighborhoods and communities, spark economic development and promote environmental sustainability. With headquarters in Washington, DC, 9 regional and field offices, 29 historic sites, and partner organizations in all 50 states, the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides leadership, education, advocacy and resources to a national network of people, organizations and local communities committed to saving places, connecting us to our history and collectively shaping the future of America’s stories. For more information, visit

I am horrified, to say the least. This decision by the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation reflects shockingly poor judgment on its part and calls into question its fitness to serve as the steward for this battlefield.

I stopped at Belle Grove today. It was a very short visit, only about half an hour. However, it remains one of the most spectacularly beautiful, pristine places on any Civil War battlefield. The thought that any of it might be disturbed by this rock quarrying operation with the blessing of the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation is sickening.

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Tomorrow morning, I head off to Culpeper, Virginia for the weekend’s tour of central Virginia cavalry actions. It’s going to be a full two and a half days, and I don’t know if I will have time to post here until I get home Sunday night. I will try, but please don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me again until I return home.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

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In preparing for my tour this weekend, I spoke to Gerry Harlow, the founder of the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation last night, as I have invited a representative of the TSBF to speak to my tour group about the preservation effort on Saturday.

During the course of the conversation, Gerry told me some terrific news that I want to share here.

Charles Goodall Trevilian was the wealthiest man in all of Louisa County, Virginia. The stop on the Virginia Central Railroad was named for him, as the depot was located on Trevilian’s land. His house sits about 75 yards from the location of the war-time depot. The yard of the house saw heavy fighting on the afternoon of June 11, 1864, and it served as George Armstrong Custer’s headquarters that night.

One of Trevilian’s daughters married a fellow named Charles Danne, Jr., and they lived in the house after Trevilian died. For many years, the house was known to the local citizenry as the Danne house, not the Trevilian house. It’s only been in the last decade or so that its real identity was pinned down.

The house has seen hard times. It’s not in good shape, and it was about to go to sheriff’s sale last week as the consequence of a default on the mortgage. Apparently, the present owner has been tearing up floorboards to burn them for heat. It’s a horrifying thought of people living that way, but that’s apparently precisely how it has played out.

Gerry was able to make a deal with the present owners and their lender to prevent it from going to sheriff’s sale, and it’s now in contract to purchase. Our good friends at the Civil War Preservation Trust entered into the purchase contract, and it will close shortly. The present owners get to stay there for a while as a condition of the sale, but the house will be saved and it will be stabilized.

Once that happens, it will make for an absolutely perfect visitor’s center for the battlefield/headquarters for the TSBF. It’s an important and very worthwhile preservation victory, just one of many we’ve managed to score at Trevilian Station. Kudos to Gerry for his great work.

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This story checks out on, so it is a true story. Hat tip to Sam Hood for bringing it to my attention.

Charlie Brown was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England. His B-17 was called ‘Ye Old Pub’ and was in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters. The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper over enemy territory instead of heading home to Kimbolton.

After flying over an enemy airfield, a pilot named Franz Stigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the B-17. When he got near the

B-17, he could not believe his eyes. In his words, he ‘had never seen a plane in such a bad state’. The tail and rear section was severely damaged, and the tail gunner wounded. The top gunner was all over the top of the fuselage. The nose was smashed and there were holes everywhere.

Despite having ammunition, Franz flew to the side of the B-17 and looked at Charlie Brown, the pilot. Brown was scared and struggling to control his damaged and blood-stained plane.

Aware that they had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn 180 degrees. Franz escorted and guided the stricken plane to and slightly over the North Sea towards England. He then saluted Charlie Brown and turned away, back to Europe.

When Franz landed he told the c/o that the plane had been shot down over the sea, and never told the truth to anybody. Charlie Brown and the remains of his crew told all at their briefing, but were ordered never to talk about it.

More than 40 years later, Charlie Brown wanted to find the Luftwaffe pilot who saved the crew. After years of research, Franz was found. He had never talked about the incident, not even at post-war reunions.

They met in the USA at a 379th Bomber Group reunion, together with 5 people who are alive now — all because Franz never fired his guns that day.

Research shows that Charlie Brown lived in Seattle and Franz Stigler had moved to Vancouver, BC after the war. When they finally met, they discovered they had lived less than 200 miles apart for the past 50 years!!

Snopes was able to verify the truth of the story. Sadly, Franz Stigler died in March 2008.

Here’s what Snopes added to the story:

It had taken 46 years, but in 1989 Brown found the mysterious man in the ME-109. Careful questioning of Stigler about details of the incident removed any doubt.

Stigler, now 80, had emigrated to Canada and was living near Vancouver. After an exchange of letters, Brown flew there for a reunion. The two men have visited each other frequently since that time and have appeared jointly before Canadian and American military audiences. The most recent appearance was at the annual Air Force Ball in Miami in September [1995], where the former foes were honored.

In his first letter to Brown, Stigler had written: “All these years, I wondered what happened to the B-17, did she make it or not?”

She made it, just barely. But why did the German not destroy his virtually defenseless enemy?

“I didn’t have the heart to finish off those brave men,” Stigler later said. “I flew beside them for a long time. They were trying desperately to get home and I was going to let them do it. I could not have shot at them. It would have been the same as shooting at a man in a parachute.”

What a really remarkable story, and what a show of respect from one warrior to another. It’s a story that desperately needed to be told.

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