(Middletown, Va.) - At a news conference this morning, representatives of Belle Grove, Inc., the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Shenandoah County, and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation joined the Civil War Trust at Belle Grove Plantation to kick-off events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Creek and reaffirm the unique partnerships that have borne fruit in several recent preservation victories. Since its foundation in 2002, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park remains among a handful of public-private partnership parks in the country, and has proven the viability of the management model; together the participating groups have saved approximately 1,692 acres of historic landscape to date.
The event saw the Civil War Trust announce the purchase at public auction and preservation of 6.7 acres of core battleground north of Middletown. While the Trust had previously protected a property known as Rienzi's Knoll, the new acreage is the first time land within the Park Service boundary has been protected on the battlefield's northern portion. The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, meanwhile, shared additional details of its recent protection of the 179-acre Island Farm property on the southern end of the battlefield.
Additionally, the partner groups announced the launch of a new website, www.savingcedarcreek.org, to showcase the ways in which the united efforts are focusing attention on the region's rich history and providing a platform to advocate for future preservation, interpretation and advocacy initiatives.
"There is no time more fitting to trumpet these preservation successes than on the eve of the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Cedar Creek," said Trust president James Lighthizer. "The steadfast determination of all our partners in the Valley has made this park an outstanding example of what such combined and focused efforts can do to secure the legacy of this hallowed ground. Today, 150 years after brave men fought and died here, we are honored to stand in such good company saluting their memory."
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation chief executive officer Keven Walker agreed, saying, "We are in the midst of an amazing movement in the Shenandoah Valley to preserve these battlefields, protecting them from numerous threats and ensuring their survival for generations to come. Preserving these additional acres of battlefield will help ensure that the incredible story of the Valley's last great battle will never be forgotten."
On October 19, 1864, Lt. Gen. Jubal Early's Confederates surprised Union troops near Cedar Creek after an audacious night march, driving first one, then another, then a third Union corps from the field. As Early paused to reorganize, Union Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan arrived from headquarters in Winchester just in time to rally his troops and launch a crushing counterattack from which Early's forces could not recover. Sheridan's victory at Cedar Creek extinguished any hope of further Confederate offensives in the Shenandoah Valley and helped secure Abraham Lincoln's reelection to the presidency.
"The success of Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our partners," said Amy Bracewell, site manager of Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP. "By working together, we can save additional land in the park, and host incredible events, like the sesquicentennial commemorations coming up this weekend."
Belle Grove Plantation, site of today's event, is one of the outstanding historic mansions of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. It is also a National Historic Landmark, a Virginia Historic Landmark and a historic property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A centerpiece of the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, Belle Grove serves the Shenandoah Valley and Virginia as an educational center through the many interpretive programs it offers. More information is available at http://www.bellegrove.org/.
Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation's annual battle reenactment takes place this weekend, October 18-19, on the Cedar Creek Battlefield. Tickets and more information are available at http://ccbf.us/.
Commemorative events sponsored by the park partners include special tours of the battlefield and Belle Grove Plantation, as well as reenactments of the Battle of Cedar Creek.
Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP would not be possible without the tireless work of its dedicated partners in the Shenandoah Valley. These partner organizations work together to promote the history of these sites, protect the endangered historic resources, and interpret these significant historic landmarks. More information about the partnerships can be found by visiting www.savingcedarcreek.org.
The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. To date, it has preserved more than 39,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, including 21,000 acres in Virginia and 621 at Cedar Creek. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.