19 June 2008 by Published in: Battlefield stomping 14 comments

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 www.PreservationNation.org.

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.

Scridb filter


  1. Thu 19th Jun 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Eric, did you ask them about their poor decision?

  2. Sean Dail
    Fri 20th Jun 2008 at 10:39 am

    So Carmeuse bought the Battlefield Foundation with eight measly acres of land?

    I’d say that the Civil War community should immediately divorse itself from those folks. Meanwhile they can use those eight acres for their reenactment – which, sadly, used to be one of the best reenactments in the country, from the standpoint of spectators, at least.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  3. Rick Allen
    Fri 20th Jun 2008 at 3:28 pm

    That just makes no damn sense at all………what a terrible decision!!!! What moron is running things down there and what the Hell are they thinking?????

  4. tomrod
    Fri 20th Jun 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Sounds shady as well as shameful!

  5. Sat 21st Jun 2008 at 7:04 am

    Was just there last weekend (see my blog link above for photos and details of my trip). This is terrible news, but not surprising. 8 acres of land will be preserved in exchange for wrecking the overall appearance. Shameful.

    Short-term thinking is what is getting America into trouble.

  6. David
    Sat 21st Jun 2008 at 8:39 am

    I cannot begin to imagine what the Cedar Creed Battlefield Foundtion was thinking. I visited the battlefield, briefly, a couple of weekends ago. It is a great place, just like Eric described it. I was considering donating to the foundation and their work, but clearly will not do so, now. I will notify them of my decision. Not that it will matter.

  7. Sun 22nd Jun 2008 at 10:03 pm


    No. It would have been a waste of time to do so.


  8. Mon 23rd Jun 2008 at 1:27 pm

    I have a friend who is very involved with the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation and they have put out a rebuttal to what you’ve printed here. I don’t want to take it upon myself to post this two or three page document on your blog and would like to send it to you via email for your examination. I don’t see a link to send you email on the blog, so if you could please send me a personal email at napoleangunner@yahoo.com I’ll be glad to send the rebuttal along to you. I think it is critical to hear both sides of this story. Thanks!

  9. Wed 25th Jun 2008 at 5:11 am

    Greetings to you fellow reenactors and supporters~ In regards to Cedar Creek and the land rezoning in Middletown, Virginia, I hope I can reassure you by telling you that the information that has been posted to the public has been, for a lack of a better word, lopsided. The Civil War Preservation Trust and The National Trust were both aware of the situation at Cedar Creek and have done their best, like the rest of us, to spread the word about the threats to Cedar Creek. On a personal note, battlefield preservation is my paid position in Hampton Roads, and I love what I do. I work for many historic sites and battlefields and understand the tactics that developers and land acquisitioners use to get plans approved. Out of all of the sites I work with, Cedar Creek is the one I hold dearest to my heart- I applied for and had granted the APVA designation for Cedar Creek Battlefield last year as the top 10 most endangered historic sites in America-thanks to proactive citizens and community leaders working together, we’ve been able to spread the word of this endangered site.Ultimately, these verbal attacks on CCBF via outside uninformed sources, are taken personally by each person serving on the board, as well as our volunteer base, and our supportive community (both regionally and nationwide) . CCBF’s organization has had 20 years of public service in protecting this nation’s War of the States history and we are continuing to do this now.

    The board members of Cedar Creek also are board members for Belle Grove Plantation, the National Park Service’s Advisory Commission, town councils and the group Preserve Frederick. As the rumors are spreading from certain people in the community to the newspapers, they are not realizing that the very groups they represent who are calling on explanations, are actually intertwined with Cedar Creek and fully aware of what is happening with the rezoning, the Quarry and the movement towards preserving parcels of land adjacent to the Quarry itself.

    All partners were working on their own angle of negotiations. Preserve Frederick put out their compromise of letting the Quarry taking the ‘Northern’ Parcel, the one adjacent to Cedar Creek Battlefield, in the Summer 2007, others continued to flatly say no, and others tried to realize that like most large land rezonings, typically, the property owner will get their approval as long as they abide by their city/county’s stipulations. Below is Suzanne Chilson’s response that was sent out to the reenactment community today and I wanted to be sure that you were able to read it and we welcome your questions or responses. I appreciate your long-standing support for Cedar Creek and its partners in the Valley. We don’t want to lose your support or your attendance at the reenactment, the lack of support from our reenactment community would be taking a huge step backwards in trying to preserve something that all of us cherish. We do need your support in not only attendance, but verbally as well. Our group will continue to work for the better of the areas of Middletown, Cedar Creek and Strasburg and I hope that at this year’s reenactment, I will have the opportunity to meet you all. Thank you again for your past support and hopefully in advance for your future strong advocacy.

    Julie Clevenger
    Board of Directors
    Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation
    P.O. Box 229
    Middletown, Virginia 22645



    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:

    Ø 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.

    Ø 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.

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

    Ø 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




  10. Socrates
    Thu 26th Jun 2008 at 10:18 am

    I am not sure of what the CCBF is saying. Are they saying that the “local preservation partnership group” did not negociate with the quarry, or they chose as a policy to not negociate with the quarry? This language is very ambiguous. Also, the CCBF did not say whether they acted with the knowledge of the “local preservation partnership group”. Did the CCBF give the “local preservation partnership group” a chance to comment on their (CCBF) actions prior to their negociations with the quarry? The CCBF statement also never states whether they – the CCBF – were ever a member of the “local preservation partnership group”, or if they were, did they resign from this group before they negociated with the quarry. A clear unambiguous answer to these questions could help people to form an opinion by themselves.

  11. Sue
    Fri 27th Jun 2008 at 5:47 am

    Very sad, to trade living history for rocks.
    I know that this a simplified way of looking at it but in the end it boils down to exactly that.

  12. Wendy Hamilton
    Fri 27th Jun 2008 at 3:00 pm

    CCBF had been an active partner opposing the quarry from 2006 until the spring of 2008. The board member, Tim Stowe, who negotiated the deal with Chemstone also gave a $300 campaign contribution to the Frederick County Supervisor who made the motion to approve the rezoning on May 28, 2008. Supervisor Lofton publicly thanked Tim Stowe and then publicly chastized the rest of the Middletown community, business owners, homeowners and the Preservation Coalition for not working with him or Chemstone – none of which was true.

    In fact many had contacted both Chemstone and this Supervisor about their concerns. $6000 was made available by the Preservation Coalition to bring in a unbiased professional facilitator to work out a reasonable compromise. CWPT made an offer to the Chemstone Corporate office to purchase over 500 acres of core Cedar Creek Battlefield. All of this was ignored or rebuffed. CCBF charged ahead claiming to save the world when in fact they get 8 acres and potentially the rights to artifacts on other land that was never included in the original 639 acres to be rezoned. They claim they got buffers and berms – all of which were part of proffers. They got us nothing except a complete rezoning and complete devasatation of an entire community, town and the demolition of hundreds of acres of core battlefield. They can spin all they want. But a spin is not the truth.

    2 years ago, Preserve Frederick began volunteeering for CCBF reenactments. We had a tent set up and collected thousands of signatures opposing the expansion of this quarry operation onto all this core battlefield adjacent to historic Middletown, the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park and Cedar Creek. This past mid- August, we shared our alternative Plan B with all of the Preservation Coalition, including CCBF. At that time I told Suzanne Chilson that she could share this with her executive board and that after we heard back from Chemstone we would be happy to discuss it with their board. We presented the Plan B to the County and sent it to Chemstone on 8/31/07. On 9/17/07 a response was received from the company stating they would share it with their attorneys and engineers and be in touch. We never heard from them again. When the October ’07 Cedar Creek reenactment was being planned Suzanne Chilson specifically stated that Preserve Frederick could not set up a tent and could not speak to reenactors and visitors about Plan B. We volunteered anyway. Plan B – which included some mining in the very southern end of the property which was already impacted by current mining and which included significant protections to all of the nearby areas. We had hired a professional planner who is very knowledgeable about all of the significant historical aspects of all of the property. The southestern parcel that CCBF now has was already protected in Plan B – as was ALL of the 500+ acres north of the current operation because it had all been removed from the expansion with the hope and expectation that it could be preserved by CWPT.

    The Preservation Coalition found out about CCBF’s back door trade deal a few weeks before the April Board of Supervisors hearing – when the decision was tabled until 5/28. At no time would CCBF make a firm comment about whether they would oppose, support or say nothing. “We take no exception'” was in fact their betrayal to all who’ve worked diligently and honestly on this issue for 2 long, hard years. They stood up and said Chemstone had been a ‘good naighbor’ which was completely contrary to anything they’d said before. They betrayed this community for 8 acres which lies in the footprint of the Bellle Grove Plantation and which had originally been promised to Belle Grove by Chemstone.

    They fundamental gave politcal permission to rezone ALL of the core battlefield. Their explanation and excuses ring hollow for all of us. We do not accept their answers or their excuses – they know exactly what they did. Had they stood firm with the rest of us, who knows what would have happened? Respect, credibility, integrity. We hold our heads high –

    Shame on them for what they did and what they say. It is not the truth.

  13. Scott Rollins
    Fri 15th Aug 2008 at 2:53 am

    There is lots of badmouthing on this subject, but I have yet to hear a solution. The reenactors sites and the papers have complaints but nothing to solve the problem. I’m sure it’s gratifying to point fingers and to make one’s own lack of effort and concentration on this issue deflect to other groups (who by the way have been around alot longer than preserve frederick) but the real story, which I got from calling the folks at cedar creek, was that this plan b that I just read about above, gave up the majority of land around the battlefield in exchange for saving ‘preserve fredericks’ groups land around their houses. mrs chilson stated that plan b was not acceptable because it gave up the land and view all around their belle grove and the battlefield and asking a group dedicated to preserving this site would not include signing off on a plan this unreasonable and threatening. i’m not sure, but it sure seems that you are calling the kettle black by shaming anyone who’s a volunteer in preservation that does not involve their homes in the effort but rather saving history.

  14. Chris S
    Fri 03rd Oct 2008 at 2:16 am

    I have sent this information to several sites. For us as reenactors, we strive to gather the correct facts before making assumptions, especially when it comes to fellow history lovers.

    I have read a report called ‘Panic at Cedar Creek’ from Professor Joe Whitehorne of Lord Fairfax. He is working on hundreds of acres of land at Cedar Creek now to unveil artifacts and interpret their meaning to the battle. There are new findings in this report that show where the true ‘core’ battlefield areas were and also discredits much of what I read above. I strongly disagree, after reading these facts, with the line:

    They betrayed this community for 8 acres which lies in the footprint of the Bellle Grove Plantation and which had originally been promised to Belle Grove by Chemstone. They fundamental gave politcal permission to rezone ALL of the core battlefield.

    The report clearly shows that first off, there will be a permanent easement set on, at this counting 200+ acres surrounding the battlefield, the 8 acres is going to go to Belle Grove from what I was told, and there are many more acres slated for preservation. that is not betraying anyones community nor is it for this 8 acre business. The report also stated that the ‘core’ battlefield areas on the north end were where a massive Federal line was formed & unfortunately destroyed by housing built in the 90’s, not the quarry. It seems that as information unfolds, it becomes clear that these groups need to stop screaming and start shaking hands. It’s tiring to hear accusations, it’s time for solutions, which seem to be happening with the Cedar Creek folks. The partners need to form an alliance and work together on some of these ideas I have read.

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