Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Not What You Want to See at A Battlefield

I assume that most people go to Civil War battlefields to do one of the following: commemorate, learn, understand, reflect, memorialize, study, observe, and interact with nature, but that is becoming more difficult to do at Cedar Creek Battlefield in Virginia.

As I type this a limestone quarry is damaging the landscape around this important piece of American ground. Visitors to Cedar Creek can't help but vividly see the intrusive industrial equipment and dust rising from the quarry, and hear the cacophonous sounds of the digging disturbing the otherwise peaceful Valley countryside. The Civil War Preservation Trust has started a campaign to hopefully limit further encroachment, and preserve a few precious acres, but only time will tell if further damage is to be done.

The Battle of Cedar Creek was the desperate final act in Confederate General Jubal Early's 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign; an effort to try to draw part of the Union army away from General Lee's besieged lines at Petersburg and Richmond.

At dawn, October 19, 1864, the Confederate Army of the Valley under Gen. Early surprised the Federal army at Cedar Creek and temporarily routed the VIII and XIX Army Corps. Union Commander Gen. Philip Sheridan arrived from Winchester just in time to rally his troops, and, in the afternoon, led a crushing counterattack, which recovered the battlefield for the Federals. Sheridan’s victory at Cedar Creek broke the back of the Confederate army in the Shenandoah Valley and brought little real relief to Lee at Petersburg. President Lincoln rode the momentum of Sheridan’s victories in the Valley and Sherman’s successes in Georgia to re-election in the November 1864 election. If Gen. Early had somehow been able to hang on to victory at Cedar Creek instead of being forced to retreat, the election may have been much closer or gone to the Democratic candidate George B. McClellan.

Right now 49 acres are targeted for preservation. The current campaign offers a match of $30 to $1. For every $1 donated, it is matched by $30. If you can help in this effort, see the CWPT website at www.civilwar.org to make a donation to this worthy cause.

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