For Immediate Release: 03/14/07
Historic Cedar Creek Among Most Endangered Battlefields in Nation
At news conference, national and regional conservation groups announce their support for 'most endangered' designation; express concern about proposed mining expansion
(Middletown, Va.) - At a news conference this morning, the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) joined with the Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation (SVBF), Preserve Frederick, the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation (CCBF), Greater Middletown Business Association (GMBA), and other community activists to address the threat posed by a proposal to expand mining operations adjacent to the battlefield. On Tuesday, Cedar Creek was designated among the most endangered in the nation in History Under Siege, CWPT's annual report on America's Civil War battlefields.
"The Shenandoah Valley is one of America's most hallowed regions," remarked Valley resident and CWPT Trustee Denman Zirkle. "The battles that were fought here are what give the Valley much of its identity. They are what make the Valley unique. Allowing such extensive mining operations on this battlefield would threaten to steal the area's very identity."
Joining Zirkle at the news conference was SVBF Executive Director Howard Kittell, Wendy Hamilton of Preserve Frederick, CCBF Executive Director Suzanne Chilson, GMBA President Carl Bernhards and other preservation leaders. All lamented the potential impact the proposed mining expansion would have on historic resources in and around Cedar Creek. The event was graciously hosted by the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation.
All the groups represented at the news conference oppose a proposal by the O-N Minerals Company to rezone 639 acres adjacent to the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park from "rural" to "extractive manufacturing." If approved, the plan would allow O-N to expand its current mining operations with five additional quarries. Although the Frederick County Planning Commission voted unanimously against the plan last year, the final decision rests with the Board of Supervisors. "We must let the decision makers here in Frederick County know that they are dealing with a valuable, irreplaceable resource," Zirkle said.
Julie Clevenger, a spokeswoman for Preserve Frederick, emphasized just how devastating the proposal would be. "The rezoning request remains in direct conflict with the Frederick County Comprehensive Plan and with existing and planned economic development efforts and tourism for southern Frederick County," Clevenger said. "This incompatible rezoning will create a 1,261 acre heavy industrial mining corridor, more than two-thirds of a mile wide and 2.6 miles long."
Howard Kittell, Executive Director of the SVBF, echoed those concerns. "A full 60 percent of the land up for rezoning in the project is core battlefield; land where brave Americans fought and bled," he said. "This was a battle that signaled the end of the war for the Valley and ultimately the nation. And it was here on this land that the tide of that battle turned, forever changing the course of American history. While the land is outside of the national park boundary, it is part of our nation's story. Solutions for this landscape need to address this fact and respect it."
History of Battle of Cedar Creek, October 19, 1864: Despite a string of costly setbacks in the Shenandoah Valley, Rebel chieftain, Lt. Gen. Jubal Early launched an audacious surprise assault at Cedar Creek that routed elements of the Union army and nearly reversed Southern fortunes in the Valley. Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, galloping onto the field after a nearly 15-mile ride from his headquarters in Winchester, rallied his men and launched a crushing counter-attack from which Early's army would never recover. Coupled with ongoing Union success in Georgia following the fall of Atlanta, the victory at Cedar Creek propelled President Abraham Lincoln to success in the 1864 election.
In addition to Cedar Creek, History Under Siege includes the following other sites listed as most endangered battlefields: Fort Morgan, Ala., Gettysburg, Pa., Harpers Ferry, W.Va., Iuka, Miss., Marietta, Ga., New Orleans Forts, La., Petersburg, Va., Spring Hill, Tenn., and the entire Northern Piedmont region in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
With 70,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our country's remaining Civil War battlefields. Since 1987, the organization has saved more than 23,500 acres of hallowed ground nationwide. CWPT's website is located at www.civilwar.org.