For Immediate Release: 07/06/04
Variety of Events to Commemorate the Third Battle of Winchester
Opening Salvo of Sheridan's Shenandoah Campaign to be explored for first time
(Winchester, Va.) - In the early spring of 1862, before his famous Valley Campaign, Confederate Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson exclaimed, "If this Valley falls, Virginia falls!" Events in the fall of 1864 proved him to be right. On September 19, 1864, Union Gen. Philip Sheridan aimed his army of more than 35,000 men squarely at the Confederate army entrenched in the small city of Winchester, Virginia. The ensuing battle one of the largest of the Civil War launched what would be the Shenandoah Valley's final campaign of the war. Exactly one month later, on October 19, the campaign ended when the Confederates made a final but unsuccessful attempt to regain the advantage at the Battle of Cedar Creek. Within months, the war was over.
Until now, the Third Battle of Winchester has gone largely unacknowledged except in history books. But this week, the Civil War Preservation Trust, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, the Old Court House Civil War Museum, the Winchester Green Circle, the Fort Collier Civil War Center, Shenandoah University's The Knowledge Point and the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau announced plans for the 2004 Winchester Civil War Weekend — "The Third Battle of Winchester: The Battle and Beyond."
From September 17 to September 19, 2004, 140 years to the day after the battle, the groups are teaming up to help visitors discover the story of this crucial battle and its effect on this small community. Previously unexplored battlefield landscapes will be open for visitors and accessible through guided walking and driving tours. New signage will be unveiled. Historic sites associated with the battle will recreate the unique images of the battle and its aftermath. And academics and artists will gather to take a new look at this battle and its important role in the course of the war.
The story will unfold at a variety of venues: at the battlefield itself, at the site of Sheridan's Field Hospital on the Winchester Green Circle, at the Old Court House Civil War Museum, at Fort Collier, and at Shenandoah University's The Knowledge Point.
More than 250 acres of core battlefield has been preserved at Third Winchester by organizations such as the Civil War Preservation Trust, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, and the Fort Collier Civil War Center. For the first time, visitors will be able to fully explore these fields and experience the story of the battle in a variety of ways. The Civil War Preservation Trust will host guided walking tours of the sites of some of the toughest fighting just north of Route 7 near Millbrook High School. The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation will host several bus tours of the broader landscape guided by Civil War historian Joseph Whitehorne. And the Winchester cluster of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District will unveil a self-guided driving tour of the battlefield.
"The fate of the Shenandoah Valley — indeed, the destiny of our country — hung in the balance at Third Winchester," remarked Civil War Preservation Trust President James Lighthizer. "It is impossible to understand the Civil War without a knowledge of the impact this struggle had on a war-weary nation."
Sheridan's Field Hospital
As he prepared for his Shenandoah Campaign, Sheridan assembled the makings of what would be the largest field hospital of the Civil War. After battles at Winchester and Fisher's Hill, Sheridan's Field Hospital went into action. This September, a new segment of the Winchester Green Circle project, Shawnee Springs, will open to the public. The segment, across Pleasant Valley Avenue from Abrams Delight, is the site of Sheridan's Field Hospital where the remains of the old hospital tent mounds are still extant. The Civil War Weekend will feature living history recreations of the hospital tents complete with what was then a state-of-the-art subterranean heating system. Re-enactors will give visitors a glimpse into the heart-rending aftermath of a Civil War battle.
Green Circle Project Coordinator Jim Lawrence noted, "Sheridan's Field Hospital at Shawnee Springs Park is a key component of the Winchester Green Circle trail system. A grant from the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation has made it possible for the site to be accessible and included in the Virginia Civil War Trails network."
Old Court House Civil War Museum
The Frederick County Courthouse served as a prison and often a hospital over the course of the war. After the Third Battle of Winchester, it functioned as both. Today, visitors can still see the graffiti left by the building's unfortunate residents. For the Civil War Weekend, re-enactors and living historians will show visitors the situation in and around the old courthouse. Captured Confederate soldiers will be in the courtyard while Union guards patrol the streets and sidewalks surrounding the building. Surgeons and hospital staff will treat wounded Confederate and Union soldiers in the courtroom. Civilians will mingle with the guards and the prisoners. And Museum volunteers will be in the gallery and at other strategic locations to answer specific questions about the building, the collection, the graffiti, and the effects of the war upon the citizens of Winchester.
Sally Coates, manager of the Old Court House Civil War Museum, said, "Visitors to the courthouse will have the opportunity to visually witness the war's aftermath and to interact with Winchester/Frederick County personalities of the day. Characters that visitors will likely meet include General Phil Sheridan, Rebecca Wright, Judge Richard Parker, Fannie Barton, Mary Lee, Anne Magill, and John E. Wills who was captured and signed his name at the top of the courthouse steps."
Confederate Fort Collier was at the center the Third Battle of Winchester, where late in the afternoon of September 19th, the thunderous Union cavalry charge, led by George Armstrong Custer, turned the tide of the battle for the Federals. Today the site is preserved and is known as the Fort Collier Civil War Center. On Saturday, September 18th, the Center will feature the 5th Annual "Cavalry Returns to Fort Collier" - a day long event with children's programming, living history and tours. The evening entertainment will feature live music, food and period dancing, the "Fort Collier Civil War Cotillion", an opportunity for visitors to slip back in time to socialize with the gentlemen and ladies of the Civil War era.
Katherine Whitesell, President of the Fort Collier Civil War Center, Inc., commented, "We are very excited about the upcoming events for the 140th celebration of the Third Battle of Winchester. For the very first time, all of the sites will be open for public visitation and this coordinated effort will bring many new visitors to the Winchester area. Fort Collier is making preparations for the "Cavalry Returns to Fort Collier" event, featuring the evening Civil War Cotillion. Don't miss the living history and Confederate camp at historic Fort Collier!"
Shenandoah University's History and Tourism Center — The Knowledge Point
The Shenandoah University History and Tourism Center will take an in-depth look at political, social and military experiences in Civil War Winchester through lectures, panel discussions, receptions plus a new Mort K?nstler fine art print exhibit and book signing.
"The Knowledge Point is pleased to offer insightful presentations from regional Civil War experts Brandon Beck, Sheila Phipps and Jonathan Noyalas and artist Mort Kunstler," said History and Tourism Center Director Bill Austin. "A new Kunstler exhibit consisting of 46 prints with descriptive captions will let visitors experience the region's Civil War story through the visual interpretations of this renowned artist. Mort's latest book, The Civil War Art of Mort Kunstler, will also be available for review and advanced purchase. This 224-page hardcover book contains 150 of his major paintings along with extensive text descriptions by historians James McPherson and James I. Robertson. He will be autographing special book inserts for each purchaser."
Together, the weekend's events will give visitors a full picture of the impact of this battle - and indeed this war - on the soldiers who fought it as well as the civilians who survived it. Finally, after years of work to protect sites that tell this important story, visitors will begin to explore that story and to understand why it is still relevant to us today.
Melanie Stepp-Coughlin, director of the Winchester-Frederick County Convention and Visitors Bureau, welcomed the collaborative effort to offer visitors a full range of ways to experience the Third Winchester story. "The Winchester Civil War Weekend offers an exciting opportunity to experience a pivotal part of American history. This unprecedented culmination of activities and events is history-making in itself, and there will be opportunities for exploration and education for people at all knowledge levels."
Howard Kittell, SVBF Executive Director, agreed. "The vision behind the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District is crystallized in this event," he said. "By working with partners to preserve the sites that tell the Civil War story, together we are creating a critical mass of sites, we are providing more opportunities for visitors to experience that story. This is exactly what Congress envisioned when it created the National Historic District and we're excited to see this vision coming to fruition for the nation and our community."
Beginning August 1, 2004, "Third Winchester: The Battle and Beyond" registration information and event details will available online at www.ShenandoahAtWar.org/events or by calling 800-662-1360.
The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation is the non-profit management entity for the eight-county Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District created by Congress in 1996 to protect, interpret and promote the Valley's Civil War battlefields and related historic sites. More information about the Foundation and the District can be found on the web at www.ShenandoahAtWar.org.
The Civil War Preservation Trust is a 58,000-member nonprofit battlefield preservation organization. Its mission is to preserve our nation's endangered Civil War sites and promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. CWPT's website is located at www.civilwar.org.
The Winchester Green Circle project is working to create safe walking and biking routes that will encircle the city. With an emphasis on community involvement, the project will enhance and connect special sites worth saving for future generations.
Old Court House Civil War Museum is located in the old Frederick County Courthouse, built in 1840 and recently renovated for use as a Civil War museum. Located in the heart of historic downtown Winchester, the courthouse served as a prison throughout the war and occasionally as a hospital--the graffiti of its soldier inhabitants can still be seen on its walls today! More information can be found at www.civilwarmuseum.org.
The Fort Collier Civil War Center, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic Fort Collier. Founded in 2001, the organization has raised over $500,000 for the purchase of this site and is now focusing on the mission of restoration of the historic buildings and the preservation of the earthworks.
Shenandoah University's History and Tourism Center — The Knowledge Point is a focal point for partnership, cooperation and knowledge; where the community and the tourism industry can come together to communicate the Valley's unique heritage, history, and culture; and to utilize all university resources as a means to help stimulate the community's economic growth through tourism. More information can be found at www.theknowledgepoint.org.
The Winchester-Frederick County Convention & Visitors Bureau fosters the area economy by marketing the community as a destination, enhancing the visitor's experience, and supporting product development. The CVB was created by the City of Winchester and Frederick County as the official tourism authority for the Winchester-Frederick County area. More information about visiting the Winchester-Frederick County area can be found at www.visitwinchesterva.com.
For more information, contact:
Elizabeth Paradis Stern/SVBF (540-327-7097 cell)
Jim Campi/CWPT (202-277-8560)
Sally Coates/Old Court House (540-542-1145)
Jim Lawrence/Sheridan's Field Hospital (540-667-0761)
Katherine Whitesell/Fort Collier (540-667-5572)
Bill Austin/S.U. HTC (540-535-3542)
Melanie Stepp-Coughlin/W-FC CVB (540-542-1326)