A Student of History

March 19, 2007

Threatened Battlefields in Va.

Filed under: Historic Preservation — John Maass @ 11:51 am

Threatened Battlefields Include Cedar Creek in the Shenandoah Valley

For immediate release — March 14, 2007
Today the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation issued the following statement from Executive Director Howard Kittell in response to the inclusion of the Cedar Creek battlefield in the Civil War Preservation Trust’s annual list of the nation’s ten most endangered Civil War battlefields.“In 1996, the United States Congress created the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District to protect ten of the Valley’s most important battlefields and help partners tell the Valley’s Civil War story.

Early in the planning for the National Historic District it was determined that one of the battlefields should be designated a unit of the national park system.  Cedar Creek and Belle Grove was quickly selected as that potential national park site – an action codified by Congress in 2002.  This designation happened because of the significance of the events that occurred here. And because of the degree of historic integrity which this area possesses.

The Battle of Cedar Creek was one of the largest in the
Shenandoah Valley —more than 45,000 Americans fought one another on these fields. This battle was a significant Union victory just weeks before the 1864 presidential election and contributed to the reelection of Abraham Lincoln. And it heralded the end of the Civil War in the Valley.

However, the integrity of this landscape and its cultural history is beset by a number of challenges.

We are here today because those challenges have placed Cedar Creek and Belle Grove on the Civil War Preservation Trust’s endangered battlefield list for 2007 – the second time in as many years that
Shenandoah Valley sites have made the list. This is a dubious distinction indeed.

Reconstruction and expansion of Interstate 81, while greatly reduced from what was contemplated a year ago still could have a significant impact on the integrity of this landscape and park.  In addition, the power line proposed to traverse

County crosses directly north of the park and would intrude into its viewshed.  And the nearby quarry’s proposed expansion area comprises about a tenth of the battlefield’s core area.

While the land proposed to be rezoned for quarry operations lies outside the national park boundary, it is extremely important core area battlefield—that land is the point at which the tide of this battle turned, and on it the course of our nation’s history.

The Battlefields Foundation was created to help protect this landscape and others throughout the Valley.  Part of this involves supporting the local partners and their stewardship of the important places that tell our nation’s story.

County is one of our most important partners.  We know that the county cares deeply about its special places. It has spent time and funds to develop plans to preserve its historic sites. The county’s concerns were evidenced in January when it went on record opposing the proposed power line.  And was again reflected last June in the Planning Commission’s denial of the quarry’s proposed expansion into the core area of the battlefield.

While no one likes to see a cherished place end up on an endangered list, we hope that by highlighting the precarious status of this important landscape, the partners here will be able to foster a solution for its protection that works for all the parties concerned.

If we are to protect these landscapes so that future generations can experience them the way that we can today, now is the time for action.”

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