24 June 2008 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 6 comments

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.

Scridb filter


  1. Rick Allen
    Tue 24th Jun 2008 at 7:43 pm

    So what is the translation of that? Who gave up what to whom and why?

    I’m not sure I am understanding.

  2. Tom Thompson
    Tue 24th Jun 2008 at 9:29 pm

    I see the Golden Rule of politics at work here,,,”The folks with the gold make the rules”. With $300 million worth of resources to exploit it was most likely going to get exploited.

    A line drawn in the sand can get you run over by a bull dozer. Unless there is some realistic precident to indicate that lines in the sand will not be breeched, and multi million dollar resources will be set aside, then it makes sense to grab the best deal available.

    It appears that the issue was resolved very late in the final quarter. What negotiation can possibly take place after the zoning board rules?

    The race is not always to the swift, but that’s the way to bet!

  3. Tue 24th Jun 2008 at 11:47 pm

    As part of the B&O Railroad Historical Society’s 2006 Annual Convention we toured the quarry operations in Middletown. There’s a lot of money invested at that site to get the limestone out of the ground, and it’s coming out weather or not the battlefield is there. The steel industry needs it, the aggregate industry needs it and the company needs it to repay its investment.

    Unfortunately vast tracts of the valley north of Middletown sit on some of the richest deposits of limestone in the US. This won’t be the last time that people kick up a fuss as a company decides to use its mineral rights. Wait until they start getting near the pricey houses in Berkeley and Jefferson Co’s, WV.

    I grimace at it, but I think the Cedar Creek folks took the best deal they could get. It’s a bummer, but I can sympathize.

  4. Sun 06th Jul 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Several comments from a local person who lives in Winchester. I also am a CW historian who has followed this unfolding disaster closely. Point #1 -the local preservation partnerships [Preserve Frederick, Belle Grove/ National Historic Trust] did try to negotiate w/ Carmeuse and were rebuffed repeatedly. Preserve Frederick then advanced a plan to the quarry to increase their digging on the south end instead of the north end where the core battlefield exists. This was rebuffed. Point # 2 – the Frederick County planning commission recommended 2 years before that the rezoning be turned down because of too many unanswered questions about impacts to residents, town of Middletown and the battlefield. The planning commision in 2008 still recommended it be turned down and yet the supervisors voted it in. Point #3 – The CCBF went behind the other preservation partners backs and accepted a last minute deal from Carmeuse in exchange for 8 acres of non-core battlefield on the southend. Point #3 – after what CCBF claims will be extensive archaelogical studies all artifacts are to be turned over to CCBF for their museum and I presume will be put on display. Will this include the bones of the soldiers, both North & South, who are certainly still buried along the NW side of the battlefield where Custer’s charge punched into the left flank of Gordon’s troops? Thanks to CCBF’s treachery this core battlefield area will become a huge hole so a foreign company, yes Carmeuse is Belgian owned, can siphon profits off the backs of American war dead. Point #4 – The Civil War Preservation Trust offered at the last minute to broker a deal for preservation groups to buy this property from Carmeuse. However this seemed to have little effect on the 4-3 supervisors vote and the wildcat maneuver by the CCBF certainly didn’t help anything. CCBF board members can spin this anyway they want, but the score at the end of the game is the same. Like the Black Sox scandal they helped to throw the World Series to the bad guys.

  5. Wed 22nd Oct 2008 at 11:19 pm

    Thanks for publishing details on this dispute. I saw mention of it in a local paper but this additional info is enlightening.

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