A Student of History

June 8, 2012

Rebuilding Ft. Price George in S.C.

Filed under: Early America,Historic Places,Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 9:04 am


The Pickens County Historical Society (in S.C.) is planning to reconstruct Fort Prince George, a French and Indian War post in the far backcountry of South Carolina. The fort was originally built in the 1750s.  A description of the fort from PCHS website:

The fort took only two months to complete and, with its complement of cannons and swivel guns in range of Keowee Town across the river, it was an imposing garrison. Constructed entirely from wood cut from the area, the square fort was relatively small. The walls were made of pine logs 8 to 10 inches in diameter sunk into the ground one beside the other and sharpened on top. A bastion stood at each of the four corners with a swivel cannon in each. The fort contained several wooden buildings with dirt floors which were improved over the years. The garrison was supplied with water from a well located in the center of the fort. The entire footprint of the fort, including the dry moat surrounding it, was only 200 feet square. There were, however, problems. In 1756, Fort Prince George was almost completely rebuilt because of structural issues due in part to the loose, sandy soil on which it stood.

Today the site of Fort Prince George lies one hundred and fifty feet below the water of Lake Keowee. Below is a map of S.C. showing where the fort was located. The site was excavated in the 1960s prior to being flooded by the lake, a report of which is here.

According to a recent news article, the PCHS is exploring the possibility of reconstructing the fort near its original location. “A renewed effort to rebuild historic Fort Prince George is now underway, and the hope is that once completed, the fort will attract a lot of tourists to the area, according to Wayne Kelley, who is helping head up the project.”

The fort was garrisoned by the Independent Company of South Carolina, pictured below in a modern illustration.

June 1, 2012

Maryland 1812 Battlefields Threatened

Filed under: Early America,Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 10:41 am

The Baltimore Sun has a recent article on endangered War of 1812 battle sites in Maryland.

Historians say changes to the way the federal government approaches the sites are long overdue.

“It is surprising how little attention is given to the sites from the Revolution and the War of 1812,” said Thomas J. Cassidy Jr., a lobbyist with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “There are very few protected sites associated with that enormously significant period.”

Other sites at risk in Maryland include several fields in Queen Anne’s County where a small American militia held off a British force of 300 in the 1813 Battle of Slippery Hill. The Department of the Interior list also includes Caulk’s Field, a Kent County battlefield that experts believe is the best-preserved War of 1812 site in the state.”

Battle of Bladensburg, MD

Battle of Bladensburg, MD

May 17, 2012

Historic Huntley Finally Restored

Filed under: Historic Places,Historic Preservation — John Maass @ 10:07 am

This site is well known to southeastern Fairfax Co. residents, just off Rt. 1 in the Hybla Valley area, south of the Beltway and not far from Mt. Vernon.  It is the plantation that Huntley Meadows Park is named for.  With NPS help of $100,000, it is set to open to the public on May 19. Looks like the stairs need a little work though, but they are close!

The villa was built in 1825 for Thomson Francis Mason, a grandson of George Mason IV, “father” of the Bill of Rights, whose home was Gunston Hall (also in Fairfax). According to a press report “restoration of the exterior included demolishing non-period additions to the structure and reconstruction of the exterior to appear as it did in the early 19th century. The site was acquired by the Fairfax County Park Authority in 1989 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Virginia Landmarks Register and the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites.”



May 15, 2012


Filed under: Early America,Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 2:11 pm

News release:


The Appomattox 1865 Foundation announced today its establishment as a non-profit corporation created to help support Appomattox Court House National Historical Park located in Appomattox County, Virginia. The goal of the organization is to raise funds and recruit “friends” to support the on-going needs of one of the country’s most recognized and beloved historical sites. “We are so pleased with the commitment the newly formed Appomattox 1865 Foundation has made to the park,” said Reed Johnson, Superintendent of the park. “The National Park Service has a long history of partnering with organizations such as this and we look forward to working with them,” he continued, “and the timing couldn’t be better as we prepare for the 150th anniversary commemorating the end of the Civil War coming up in 2015.” Charter members of the group and board members came together after seeing a need and noting a desire from among the many fans of Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. “We are excited by the response from new members, prospective members, and supporters who have approached us since we first began work on the formation of the foundation,” said Beckie Nix, President of the Foundation. “This park is a national treasure and is also well known outside of the United States; we expect many “friends” locally, nationally and internationally. It is an exciting undertaking and the board is committed to executing noteworthy programs and projects that will significantly enhance the visitors’ experiences at the park,” she continued.

The mission of the Appomattox 1865 Foundation is to enrich the understanding and appreciation of the heritage and significance of Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. The foundation focuses on education efforts to preserve the past, augment support, commemorate history and enhance the visitor’s experience at the park. The group is actively seeking members with many levels of membership available. If you would like to become a “friend” or to learn more about our organization, please stop by our display or contact us at eileen@maxpromarketing.com.

Civil War Preservation in Va.–News

Filed under: Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 8:11 am

Last week, reports the Civil War Trust, Gov. Bob McDonnell joined them at the National Sporting Library and Museum to launch a national campaign to protect historic Mount Defiance on the Middleburg Battlefield, in No. Virginia.  “The cornerstone of the campaign is a public-private partnership between the Civil War Trust, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the Northern Regional Park Authority.” 

For more on the battle of Middleburg, click HERE. A photo of part of the battlefield is below.


April 5, 2012

New Preservation Effort at Shiloh

Filed under: Historic Places,Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 9:40 am

This morning, April 5, as part of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission’s annual signature event commemorating 150th anniversary the Battle of Shiloh, the Civil War Trust joined with the National Park Service and State of Tennessee to make announcements regarding the permanent preservation of 925 acres on the Shiloh Battlefield.  The achievements discussed were threefold: the transfer of 167 acres from the Trust to the park; the launch of a $1.25 million campaign to preserve an additional 491 acres inside the park; and the successful completion of efforts to purchase 267 acres at Fallen Timbers.

“We believe that every acre we save is an investment in our country’s future. There can be no more lasting and fitting tribute than protecting the sites where the war’s outcome was decided — the battlefields themselves,” said Trust President James Lighthizer.  “As a permanent and meaningful legacy of the sesquicentennial, we give our children and grandchildren the opportunity to walk these same fields unblemished and undisturbed.”

The day’s events began with a welcome from Susan Whitaker, Tennessee commissioner of Tourist Development and a co-chair of the state Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and remarks from Gov. Bill Haslam.  Following an introduction from Dr. Carroll Van West, director of the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area and the sesquicentennial commission’s other co-chair, Lighthizer and Trust chairman emeritus John Nau joined federal and state officials for the preservation announcements.

Shiloh National Military Park (NMP) superintendent Woody Harrell said that the transfer of three properties totaling 167 acres, initially acquired by the trust in 2007 and 2008 with the intention that they would eventually become part of the park, is symbolic of the longstanding partnership between the two organizations.  The Trust has previously transferred 192 acres to the park and continues to maintain ownership of two small parcels totaling less than three acres.

“Alongside our dedicated partners at the Civil War Trust, we have been able to enhance the experience of visitors to Shiloh in ways that neither of us would have individually,” said Harrell. “This is the type of outstanding partnership that enables our National Parks to thrive.”

“The significance of Shiloh battlefield is unquestioned; the need to preserve as much as possible is paramount.” said Dr. Carroll Van West, director, Center for Historic Preservation, Middle Tennessee State University and co-chair of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission. “We applaud this gift of the Civil War Trust to our state, our nation, and the future.”

Nau, who is also the immediate past chairman of the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and serves as vice-chair of the National Parks Foundation, noted that the transfer is part of a larger effort by the Department of the Interior to acquire historic properties at battlefield parks as part of the sesquicentennial commemoration.  During the past year, the federal government has set aside more than $5 million to transfer battlefield lands into the National Park Service.  When all is said and done, more than 536 acres of battlefield land will have been added to battlefield parks at Manassas, Richmond, Fort Donelson and Shiloh as a tangible legacy of the anniversary period.

“There can be no higher recognition of a site’s historic significance than its inclusion within one of America’s ‘crown jewels’ — its National Parks,” Nau remarked.  “We are thankful that thoughtful officials in the federal government share this vision and have made the acquisition and integration of high priority battlefield land into existing parks a key part of the Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration.”

In addition to the culmination of one preservation effort, the Trust also announced the beginning of an ambitious new project — one that, if successful, would be the largest single acquisition of land at Shiloh since the establishment of the national military park in 1894.  For decades, this 491-acre parcel, which completes the battlefield’s southeastern corner, has topped the park’s acquisition wish list, as it represents the final unprotected portion of the eastern edge of Shiloh Hill. 

During the opening hours of the battle, Confederates from Mississippi and Tennessee, attempting to flank the end of the Union left, slammed into troops of the 54th Ohio and 55th Illinois. These Union soldiers held the high ground above a steep ravine until, out of ammunition and exhausted, they were forced to retreat.  As they withdrew, they came under fire from the triumphant Confederates, one of whom later recalled: “It was like shooting into a flock of sheep.  I never saw such cruel work during the war.”

With is large size and tremendous history, the price for this land is $1.25 million. But, the Trust expects to be able to apply a $1 million government matching grant toward the acquisition, leaving just $250,000 to be raised from private donations.  Moreover, because the property lies within NPS boundaries, the land will quickly become part of Shiloh National Military Park.

The final portion of the announcement concerned a campaign to protect 267 acres associated with the fighting at Fallen Timbers on April 8, 1862 — often considered the “final chapter” of the Battle of Shiloh — that was first announced in December 2011.  Thanks to the generosity of its members, the Trust has now completed its fundraising effort and closed on the property, protecting a full 75 percent of the battlefield in a single transaction.  While the full purchase price for the acquisition was $935,000, the Trust was aided by a $400,000 matching grant from the federal Civil War Battlefield Protection Program. 

The Battle of Shiloh, fought April 6–7, 1862, at Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., was the bloodiest battle in American history up to that point, with more than 23,000 men falling as casualties. Although the Confederate attackers met with initial success, the arrival of Union reinforcements left the Southerners outnumbered and unable to carry the field and sent them retreating to the vital rail hub at Corinth, Miss.  This Union victory, following on the heels of the surrender of Confederate Forts Henry and Donelson, led to Northern domination of Tennessee which and played a role in the ultimate surrender of Vicksburg, dividing the Confederacy in two along the Mississippi River.

In addition to the Shiloh property, the Trust is currently engaged in active fundraising efforts to save significant battlefield properties at Bentonville, N.C., Cedar Creek., Cross Keys, Va., Fredericksburg, Va., Gaines’ Mill, Va., Mill Springs, Ky., Perryville, Ky., and Tom’s Brook, Va. 


March 6, 2012

Battlefield Preservation Update

Filed under: Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 8:12 pm

Preservationists are drawing lines of defense around more of America’s hallowed ground.

U.S. senators hoping to control development near Civil War sites have introduced legislation to protect two parcels at Gettysburg and preserve thousands of acres of battlefields at Vicksburg, Miss., and Petersburg, Va.

“That kind of historic land can never be replaced,” said Michael Kraus, curator of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland and a member of the National Civil War Museum Advisory Council. “These are places where people fought and gave their lives.”

Read more: Laws for Gettysburg preservation are being supported by U.S. senators – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/s_784874.html#ixzz1oOBXgQv9

February 16, 2012

Ireland: Plan to protect Hill of Tara

Filed under: Historic Preservation,Ireland — John Maass @ 8:51 am

A conservation plan has been commissioned for the State-owned lands on the Hill of Tara by the Irish Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan. The minister, in collaboration with the Office of Public Works (OPW) and the Heritage Council, has commissioned the Discovery Programme to undertake the plan. Brian Lacey of the Discovery Programme said the structure of a conservation plan is quite specific. It is recognised internationally as an ideal formula for protecting heritage and managing change in important historic places. In the summer of 2010, the Discovery Programme and its partners at NUI Galway doubled the amount of geophysical surveys on the hilltop, revealing in the process what is almost certainly the previously unknown whereabouts of the medieval manor of Tara. Archaeological works to investigate the significant degradation of the covering of the Mound of the Hostages have been completed. The Mound of the Hostages, Duma na nGiall, is one of the most prominent monuments among the concentration of prehistoric sites on the Hill of Tara.
The Tara-Skryne Preservation Group (TSPG) has welcomed Minister Deenihan’s announcement of a conservation plan. Carmel Diviney of the group, which was formed during the M3 motorway controversy, said it is a most welcome announcement to all concerned about the long-ranging state of disrepair on the Hill.
“A much sought-after comprehensive plan of management will be put in place on these State-owned lands which will ensure the preservation of one of Ireland’s most important sacred, historical, mythological and cultural sites,” she said.

From The Meath Chronicle (1 February 2012), http://tinyurl.com/7lnb3gr.

Though best known as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, the Hill of Tara has been an important site since the late Stone Age when a passage-tomb was constructed there. Tara was at the height of its power as a political and religious centre in the early centuries after Christ. Attractions include an audio-visual show and guided tours of the site.

February 9, 2012

Cedar Creek Battlefield Update

Filed under: Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 10:45 am


February 9, 2012

(Middletown, Va.) – During a news conference today at historic Belle Grove Plantation, the Civil War Trust announced its latest campaign to save battlefield land — a $1.3 million fundraising effort to the preserve 77 acres of hallowed ground on the Cedar Creek Battlefield in Frederick County, Va.

“The announcement of either one of these acquisition opportunities would be cause for excitement in the preservation community,” said Trust president James Lighthizer. “But the chance to simultaneously and permanently protect both of these sites is truly remarkable. Projects like this, which will give the public an opportunity to explore previously inaccessible historic lands, is why the Civil War Trust is in the preservation business.”

The two target properties, the Vermont Monument site and Rienzi’s Knoll, located on opposite ends of the battlefield, each represent a critical moment in the October 19, 1864 struggle — a Union victory that clinched Abraham Lincoln’s reelection to second term as President.

The Civil War Trust was joined at the news conference by representatives of a variety of entities involved in historic preservation at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park. Joining Lighthizer at the speakers’ podium were Bell Grove Plantation executive director Elizabeth McClung, park superintendent Diann Jacox, representatives of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and Laura Jeffords, daughter of former Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, as well as several former members of his staff.

“Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park is a partnership park, which exists because of our unique collaboration with a variety of preservation partners,” said Jacox. “This collaboration is perfectly illustrated by the Civil War Trust’s work to preserve these two iconic sites on the battlefield. Their latest efforts will help our visitors better understand the full scope and extent of the battle — particularly on the northern part of the battlefield, where no land associated with the Union counterattack had yet been saved.”

Kilpatrick agreed that the Trust’s campaign to save these two parcels will have a lasting impact, adding, “The Commonwealth of Virginia remains committed to ensuring that the irreplaceable sites that tell the story of the Old Dominion’s role in the Civil War are protected forever. Participating in landmark efforts like this one is an investment in both our past and our future.

The first property is a 12.5-acre tract near Belle Grove Plantation associated with the pre-dawn Confederate attack that overwhelmed an unsuspecting Union army. In a desperate attempt to buy time for the Northern lines to reform, a single brigade — outnumbered by some estimates 10-to-1 — was ordered forward into the Confederate advance and held its ground for a crucial half-hour. One regiment, the 8th Vermont, lost 110 of its 164 men in the brutal, often hand-to-hand fighting. Vermont’s heroic stand at Cedar Creek is often considered to be among the state’s finest hours during the Civil War. An enormous mural depicting the fighting hangs in the State House in Montpelier. A monument to the 8th Vermont, one of only three on the entire Cedar Creek Battlefield, sits on the property the Trust is seeking to acquire.

The second property covers 64.5 acres on the northern end of the battlefield, where no land has previously been protected, but where one of the greatest reversals of fortune in the Civil War took place. After retreating five miles, the situation looked bleak for the defeated and disorganized Union forces. It was then that Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, arriving after a brutal 13-mile ride to the sound of the guns, rallied his men and launched a devastating counterattack that nearly destroyed the Confederate army. The event was immortalized in Thomas Buchanan Read’s poem “Sheridan’s Ride.” The area where the improbable rally took place became known as Reinzi’s Knoll, after Sheridan’s horse — although the steed was renamed Winchester to commemorate his journey.

Acquisition of these two historic properties, which is expected to cost $1.3 million, would not be possible without the assistance of the American Battlefield Preservation Program (ABPP – an arm of the National Park Service) and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR). Virginia DHR has already announced a $224,000 Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund grant for the project, with a $337,500 grant expected from ABPP’s Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program.

Meanwhile, towards the acquisition of the Vermont Monument, the Trust will apply $415,000 in federal transportation funding allocated specifically for land preservation projects at Cedar Creek by former Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT) in 2005. Previously, the Trust was able to secure three other properties totaling 74 acres elsewhere on the battlefield, including two immediately adjacent to the Vermont Monument site, using grant funding from this source.

“To the people of Vermont, the blood spilled by our ancestors makes this truly hallowed ground,” said Jim Eismeier, Jeffords’s former administrative director. “Today’s announcement is the product of much effort stretching back across almost a decade and the culmination Sen. Jeffords’s vision for the protection of land deeply important to him and his state.”

In addition to the Cedar Creek properties, the Trust is currently engaged in fundraising efforts to save significant battlefield properties at Bentonville, N.C., Fredericksburg, Va., Gaines’ Mill, Va., Perryville, Ky., Mill Springs, Ky., and Shiloh/Fallen Timbers, Tenn., as well as an ambitious national campaign to protect hallowed ground during the Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration. To learn more about these active fundraising efforts and the Trust’s ambitious sesquicentennial preservation initiative, Campaign 150, please visit http://www.civilwar.org/campaign150.

August 31, 2010

Revolutionary War Parks Require Additional Funding

Filed under: Early America,Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 1:21 pm

The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), in June 2010 released new assessments of three South Carolina Revolutionary War parks—Kings Mountain National Military Park, Cowpens National Battlefield, and Ninety Six National Historic Site. The reports find that additional funding is needed to maintain these historic sites that bring American history to life and offer a wealth of family-friendly educational and recreational opportunities year-round.

To view the three full reports and to take action to help protect Revolutionary War parks, please visit http://www.npca.org/stateoftheparks/sc_revolutionary_war_parks/.

September 23, 2008

Monocacy Battlefield threatened

Filed under: Early America,Historic Preservation,Wars — John Maass @ 7:00 am

The PATH of least resistance
Originally published September 09, 2008

Recently, Allegheny Power unveiled details of the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline, a large project to reinforce the electrical infrastructure to the eastern U.S.

The project intends to link a substation in Bedington, W.Va., to another in Kemptown using two sets of high-power lines running independently through Frederick County. The project’s filing date by late 2008 makes it no less than a “run-away train.” Decisions on where to locate these two giant-scale lines scarring the county’s landscape and history are being made as you read this piece and will be completed before we have a chance to offer much input.

Understanding this project’s scale and the unavoidable fact that the lines eventually will go into someone’s property, it becomes imperative that the routing process be transparent and in the best interest of future generations. Among the many riches of Frederick County, its proud American Civil War history and its beautiful farming landscapes are unique. In this context, we take this opportunity to voice concerns about a potential segment of the PATH Project in Southern Frederick County.

This segment overbuilds smaller lines traveling over the northern part of Historic Buckeystown before crossing the Monocacy River. In the Urbana district, it traverses Baker Valley and the Hope Hill neighborhood; it follows Park Mills Road until crossing I-270, where it heads south along I-270 to and through the township of Urbana.

Should this segment be used by the PATH Project, an irreparable injury of the region would occur with a price to be paid by this and future generations as we all will stare at a desecrated historic and agricultural landscape dominated by high-power electrical towers.

Amongst the most important historical landmarks impacted by this line segment is the Monocacy Battlefield. The National Park Service, at significant cost to taxpayers (all of us), has purchased land, restored property and created networks of trails over Brooks Hill east of the Worthington Farm.

Brooks Hill is a small range separating the Monocracy River from Baker Valley. Wave after wave of Confederate troops advanced on the side of this hill about 150 years ago after crossing the Monocacy River to attack Union troops positioned between the Worthington and Thomas farms. This same range could now be the site for intrusive high-power towers placed on the adjacent Snow Hill Farm, degrading the view shed and historic value of the park and limiting any potential for future improvement or expansion.

The Snow Hill Farm itself has its own historic value, serving as encampment grounds to Gen. Ricketts’ retreating Union troops. The property is under easement by the Maryland Historic Trust by a grant from the Civil War Preservation Trust calling for the restoration of the property to conditions circa the Battle of the Monocacy (1864) and to protect the rural character of Baker Valley. To allow deployment of such power lines will set a dangerous precedent, diminishing future assurances for protection of any property entrusted to a state or federal agency.

Several properties listed in the Maryland Historic Trust will also be impacted by the project, including the David O. Thomas Farmstead, the Hope Hill Methodist Church, and the two-classroom African-American School, the Hampton School and Hope Hill Cemetery. The cemetery remains a testimony to the segregated nature of the original Hope Hill church by the concentration of African-American family names in the northeast corner of the lot.

AP claims their mission is to keep the electricity flowing. We are troubled to say that in AP’s corporate environment, where decisions are made at levels far removed from the ground, outsourced to out-of-state contractors or guided by time and budget constraints, what we value as our history might register to AP executives as noise.

We urge readers to visit the park and see the wonders of this unique piece of American history and visit the PATH website (www.pathtransmission.com) and voice opposition to attempts to degrade its quality and future. To state and federal officials, custodians of our natural resources and history, we urge them to execute their duties by protecting this unique piece of land and history on behalf of future generations.


Donalda & Camilo Toro write from Frederick.

September 12, 2008

Montpelier redone

Filed under: Early America,Historic Preservation — John Maass @ 9:27 am

I am very excited about the renovation done to Montpelier, James and Dolley Madison’s home in Orange Co., Va.  I saw it twice back in the early 1990s, and look forward to going again to see the changes.  There’s a USA Today story about it here, and I post a photo below.  “Restorers have lopped off two wings, obliterated 14 bathrooms, re-created two staircases and, overall, reduced by more than half the size of Montpelier, President James Madison’s lifelong home here in the lush foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.”


Montpelier, where the fourth U.S. president, James Madison, grew up and retired, has had a five-year, $24 million restoration. A new visitor center displays artifacts found during the project.


Prior to renovations:

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