Published on February 24, 2020

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Have Save the Site at the Center of the Morning Attack

Click image to see map of battle and target property

If we act now, 72 acres of core battlefield can be saved at Cedar Creek. The guns have long been silent, but the fight must begin today.

These 72 acres are situated on the southern end of the battlefield, on the bluffs above the creek itself.  It was on this land that the center of Confederate Gen. Joseph Kershaw’s division slammed into the unsuspecting Federals of Gen. George Crook’s Army of West Virginia.  We’ve all recounted the story many times, and imagined that damp dark morning and the attack that came roaring out of the fog.  Now we can save a massive piece of the rolling landscape across which this fighting raged.  We have an opportunity that we can’t allow to slip by.  You and I must save this unbelievably important parcel.

These 72 acres would be worth fighting for even if they stood alone, but saving this land is especially critical because it lies near the center of hundreds of acres that have already been preserved.  Saving this property from future development protects much more than these 72 acres. Saving this property protects the historic integrity of hundreds of acres at the place battle began, and builds on the preservation efforts that many of you have been making for years.  By preserving this property, we will create a continuous preserved corridor of over 530 acres!  This opens the southern half of the battlefield to the public and creates opportunities for trails and interpretation that have never before been possible.

Union Gen. Philip Sheridan and Confederate Gen. Jubal Early, the opposing commanders at Cedar Creek

Now let me get into the nitty gritty of the deal – because this is going to be a tough project to fund and I want you to know what I’m signing us up for.  First, none of this would be possible if it weren’t for the generosity and vision of the property’s current owners, Byron Brill and Kathy Cantor, who have agreed to donate $400,000 of the property’s value.  I need to say that again…the owners are willing to donate almost a half a million dollars to help us get this property preserved!

And that’s the only thing that has made the project possible – because the Federal funds that we so often depend on cannot be used for this project.  You see, Federal American Battlefield Protection Program dollars cannot be spent on land acquisition within the legislative boundary of a Unit of the National Park Service.  So over half of the funds that we would typically rely on to close a deal are off the table.  Without the generosity of the owners, this project simply would not be happening.

But, even with their help, and even if we are able to secure all the state funding that this project will be eligible for, we still need to raise $300,000 to save this piece of our history and protect this hallowed ground.

This is a heavy lift. But we are confident in you and in all of our friends across the nation. This is a $1.4 million property that can be forever protected but we need to raise $300,000 if we are going to make it happen.  Please…I’m asking you to do all that you can.  There are some who doubt that you and I have the capacity to pull this off.

Let’s prove them wrong.

To see the complete letter from SVBF CEO Keven M. Walker, click here.

 

“With a wild, fierce yell… the line rushed up the slope and dashed at the intrenchments.” – Confederate Col. Peter A. S. McGlashan, describing the assault on the target property.

Early “Had Doubtless Retreated”

Click image to see historic sketch

On October 18, 1864, Union Gen. Horatio Wright, in temporary command of the Federal army at Cedar Creek, dispatched reconnaissance patrols to check on Confederate activity to the south.  Uncertain of Confederate intentions, for some days the Federals had been sending out such patrols and forming their troops in line of battle by 4am as a precaution against attack.  When the patrols returned on October 18, all reported no evidence of enemy activity.

One of the patrols had consisted of Union Col. Thomas Harris’s brigade, part of Col Joseph Thoburn’s division in Gen. George Crook’s Army of West Virginia.  When Harris returned from his scout he reported that “nothing was to be found in [Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early’s] old camp, and that he had doubtless retreated up the Valley.”

Union troops, tired of the long campaign and 4am turn-outs, were eager to believe the reports.  One soldier recalled how Harris’s report “gave a fancied sense of security to much of the army.”  The troops were also overconfident of the strength of the position, with one writing home that “We do not fear an attack while we remain here.”

But Harris could not have been more wrong.  Even as his report was being passed up to Wright, the Confederates were on the move, embarking on a night march that would culminate early the next morning – October 19, 1864 – in one of the most audacious surprise attacks of the war.

Ironically, the first main line of troops to be hit would be Thoburn’s division – with Harris’s brigade at the center…

For more on the battle and the actions on the target property, click here

“We glided along the road like a procession of specters through the dark.”  – Confederate Col. Peter A. S. McGlashan, describing the night march that would end in the morning attack that struck the target property.