|Tuesday, Jul 8, 2008|
In the early morning hours of October 19, 1864, Union troops encamped around Cedar Creek between the northern Shenandoah Valley towns of Middletown and Strasburg. They were just beginning to awaken when the crackle of gunfire and thunder of cannon alerted them to what would become one of the most sweeping attacks of the American Civil War.
On July 1st, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation announced that it has preserved more than 189 acres of battleground where Gen. Jubal Earlyâs Confederates assaulted Federal troops that morning. As the site of the encampments and line of battle for the Union VIII Corps, the newly protected property saw some of the most dramatic fighting of the battle. By the end of that October morning, much of the VIII Corps either ceased to exist or was in complete disarray, having withdrawn miles northward.
The newly protected parcelâdubbed the VIII Corps Propertyâlies in Warren County at the heart of the new Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park and links previously protected areas within the park boundary. Along US 11, Belle Grove Plantation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation own and manage 696 acres. To the southeast, the SVBF has already protected more than 303 acres. The VIII Corps Property begins to knit together these disparate areas of the park and the battlefield.
âThis parcel is key to connecting the southern end of the park with the northern end of the park,â said superintendent Diann Jacox. âThis area not only contains a significant part of the parkâs natural and cultural story, but as we consider how visitors will one day explore the park, preservation of this parcel will enable visitors to move between the various other areas of the park. The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation has been a strong partner in the effort to protect this battlefield landscape and we are thrilled with this success today.â
The project was made possible through the SVBFâs annual federal appropriation for land preservation in the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District, matched with $539,000 from the Commonwealth of Virginia through a grant from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation. The SVBF placed a conservation easement on the property which is co-held with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
The Battlefields Foundation purchased the property from the estate of Goldie Cooley Hudson, a descendant of the Cooley family which owned and lived at Belle Grove Plantation during the Civil War and the Battle of Cedar Creek. The VIII Corps Property, which may have been a part of the plantation during the war, had been owned by Mrs. Hudson and her late husband, John, since the 1950s and served as a retirement retreat for the couple.
Sue Ferguson, the Hudsonsâ niece, noted that preservation of the property was important to Mrs. Hudson. âWe would like to emphasize the wishes of Aunt Goldie in the preservation of the open spaces which she and Uncle Johnny loved so much,â said Ferguson. âThey both loved and lived to care for the land. We are all so pleased to be able to complete this vision of Aunt Goldieâs. To connect the dots from her generation to so many in future generations is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.â
Created by Congress in 1996, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District encompasses Augusta, Clarke, Frederick, Highland, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren counties in Virginia and the cities of Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro, and Winchester. The Districtâs legislation authorizes federal funding for the protection of ten Civil War battlefields in the Valley and for the coordination of interpretation and promotion of the Shenandoah Valleyâs Civil War history.
As authorized by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation serves as the non-profit manager of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District, partnering with local, regional, and national organizations and governments to preserve the Valleyâs battlefields and interpret and promote the regionâs Civil War story.
A map of the property may be downloaded from the news area of the National Historic District website: www.ShenandoahAtWar.org
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District can be reached at: www.ShenandoahAtWar.org
Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park are at: www.nps.gov/cebe
The link to the National Park Service 1992 study of the Shenandoah Valleyâs Civil War battlefields is: www.cr.nps.gov/hps/abpp/shenandoah/svs0-1.html
Information on the Battle of Cedar Creek can be found at: http://www.cr.nps.gov/hps/abpp/shenandoah/svs3-15.html