Civil War Preservation issue in Virginia

An alert reader sent me a link to an article in The Winchester Star by Drew Houff. The article discusses two historical groups at odds over battlefield preservation in the area. Below is an excerpt of the article, which can be found in its full version here.

Historical groups at odds over rezoning

By Drew Houff
The Winchester Star

Front Royal — Bad blood between two partners likely will continue, at least in the near future, if Thursday morning’s meeting of the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park Foundation is any indication.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Belle Grove Inc. announced on Wednesday that they would sever ties with the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation due to the Civil War group’s failure to oppose an expansion of a quarry near the battlefield and Belle Grove Plantation property south of Middletown.

At Thursday’s meeting, Linden “Butch” Fravel, a member of the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation, sat behind Elizabeth McClung, the executive director of Belle Grove Inc., but the two did not speak.

Fravel, in fact, left the meeting following a presentation on the ecology of the park, which includes Belle Grove and the Cedar Creek battlefield.

McClung, who stayed, said after the meeting that she was disappointed in how the two park partners have strayed from trying to accomplish things together.

She said the values shared by the preservation groups are essential to the character of the park, making it important for them to work together.

“We are losing open space, historic land, and the context for historic sites along the way,” McClung said. “Therefore, it’s really crucial for groups whose missions are to preserve historic and natural resources to closely collaborate.

“That time has long passed for a small nonprofit to stand alone and unilaterally take action. It’s really very strangely naive and misguided for any one, small nonprofit to single-handedly believe they are protecting and speaking for a whole group.”

McClung said she was concerned that the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation had voted two months ago not to use Belle Grove’s property for this year’s re-enactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek, which will be held in October, but had never bothered to inform anyone from Belle Grove of the decision.

Continue to full article.


2 thoughts on “Civil War Preservation issue in Virginia

  1. 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:

    Ø 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.

    Ø 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.

    Ø Artifacts: All artifacts discovered will become the property of the CCBF and will be held in trust for the public benefit.

    Ø 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


  2. I would like to state for the record that I merely posted this article that was sent to me by a reader. I have no iron in this fire and do not have an opinion on it. I would like to express my thanks to Ms. Chilson for the above comment presenting their side of the story. It is my hope that with both sides presented that a interesting discussion about preservation will occur.

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