For Immediate Release: 02/09/12
Civil War Trust Announces $1.3 Million Fundraising Campaign to Save 77 Acres at Cedar Creek
Purchase of Vermont Monument site will fulfill longstanding goal of former Sen. Jim Jeffords; Rienzi’s Knoll purchase will mark protection of first land associated with Union counterattack
(Middletown, Va.) – During a news conference today at historic Belle Grove Plantation, the Civil War Trust announced its latest campaign to save battlefield land — a $1.3 million fundraising effort to the preserve 77 acres of hallowed ground on the Cedar Creek Battlefield in Frederick County, Va.
“The announcement of either one of these acquisition opportunities would be cause for excitement in the preservation community,” said Trust president James Lighthizer. “But the chance to simultaneously and permanently protect both of these sites is truly remarkable. Projects like this, which will give the public an opportunity to explore previously inaccessible historic lands, is why the Civil War Trust is in the preservation business.”
The two target properties, the Vermont Monument site and Rienzi’s Knoll, located on opposite ends of the battlefield, each represent a critical moment in the October 19, 1864 struggle — a Union victory that clinched Abraham Lincoln’s reelection to second term as President.
The Civil War Trust was joined at the news conference by representatives of a variety of entities involved in historic preservation at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park. Joining Lighthizer at the speakers’ podium were Bell Grove Plantation executive director Elizabeth McClung, park superintendent Diann Jacox, representatives of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and Laura Jeffords, daughter of former Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, as well as several former members of his staff.
“Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park is a partnership park, which exists because of our unique collaboration with a variety of preservation partners,” said Jacox. “This collaboration is perfectly illustrated by the Civil War Trust’s work to preserve these two iconic sites on the battlefield. Their latest efforts will help our visitors better understand the full scope and extent of the battle — particularly on the northern part of the battlefield, where no land associated with the Union counterattack had yet been saved.”
Kilpatrick agreed that the Trust’s campaign to save these two parcels will have a lasting impact, adding, “The Commonwealth of Virginia remains committed to ensuring that the irreplaceable sites that tell the story of the Old Dominion’s role in the Civil War are protected forever. Participating in landmark efforts like this one is an investment in both our past and our future.
The first property is a 12.5-acre tract near Belle Grove Plantation associated with the pre-dawn Confederate attack that overwhelmed an unsuspecting Union army. In a desperate attempt to buy time for the Northern lines to reform, a single brigade — outnumbered by some estimates 10-to-1 — was ordered forward into the Confederate advance and held its ground for a crucial half-hour. One regiment, the 8th Vermont, lost 110 of its 164 men in the brutal, often hand-to-hand fighting. Vermont’s heroic stand at Cedar Creek is often considered to be among the state’s finest hours during the Civil War. An enormous mural depicting the fighting hangs in the State House in Montpelier. A monument to the 8th Vermont, one of only three on the entire Cedar Creek Battlefield, sits on the property the Trust is seeking to acquire.
The second property covers 64.5 acres on the northern end of the battlefield, where no land has previously been protected, but where one of the greatest reversals of fortune in the Civil War took place. After retreating five miles, the situation looked bleak for the defeated and disorganized Union forces. It was then that Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, arriving after a brutal 13-mile ride to the sound of the guns, rallied his men and launched a devastating counterattack that nearly destroyed the Confederate army. The event was immortalized in Thomas Buchanan Read’s poem “Sheridan’s Ride.” The area where the improbable rally took place became known as Reinzi’s Knoll, after Sheridan’s horse — although the steed was renamed Winchester to commemorate his journey.
Acquisition of these two historic properties, which is expected to cost $1.3 million, would not be possible without the assistance of the American Battlefield Preservation Program (ABPP – an arm of the National Park Service) and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR). Virginia DHR has already announced a $224,000 Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund grant for the project, with a $337,500 grant expected from ABPP’s Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program.
Meanwhile, towards the acquisition of the Vermont Monument, the Trust will apply $415,000 in federal transportation funding allocated specifically for land preservation projects at Cedar Creek by former Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT) in 2005. Previously, the Trust was able to secure three other properties totaling 74 acres elsewhere on the battlefield, including two immediately adjacent to the Vermont Monument site, using grant funding from this source.
“To the people of Vermont, the blood spilled by our ancestors makes this truly hallowed ground,” said Jim Eismeier, Jeffords’s former administrative director. “Today’s announcement is the product of much effort stretching back across almost a decade and the culmination Sen. Jeffords’s vision for the protection of land deeply important to him and his state.”
In addition to the Cedar Creek properties, the Trust is currently engaged in fundraising efforts to save significant battlefield properties at Bentonville, N.C., Fredericksburg, Va., Gaines’ Mill, Va., Perryville, Ky., Mill Springs, Ky., and Shiloh/Fallen Timbers, Tenn., as well as an ambitious national campaign to protect hallowed ground during the Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration. To learn more about these active fundraising efforts and the Trust’s ambitious sesquicentennial preservation initiative, Campaign 150, please visit www.civilwar.org/campaign150.
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, the Trust has preserved more than 32,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, including nearly 533 acres at Cedar Creek. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.