Almost 400 of the Valley’s most significant battlefield acres are threatened by the expansion of a limestone quarry in southern Frederick County, south and west of Middletown. The expansion area has been identified by the National Park Service as some of the most important terrain at the Cedar Creek, one of the largest battlefields in the Shenandoah Valley and rated by the NPS among the most important in the nation.
In 2008, Carmeuse Lime & Stone, part of a Belgian mining conglomerate, won a rezoning effort to convert more than 394 acres of the Cedar Creek battlefield for the expansion of its limestone mining operation. All of this land lies within the battlefield’s core area and is immediately adjacent to the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.
Often called a Confederate victory in the morning and a Union victory in the afternoon, the Battle of Cedar Creek (19 October 1864) ended the struggle for control of the Shenandoah Valley for the remainder of the war and contributed to the reelection of Abraham Lincoln just weeks later.
The battle is defined by its sweeping troop movements across miles of farmland, first northward from the creek to Middletown and then southward, back over the same ground. After a triumphant early morning attack on Union encampments around the creek, the Confederate advance extended miles north and west into the quarry’s proposed expansion area, where counterattacks by Union cavalry contributed to the collapse of the Confederate line and ultimately a Northern victory.
Unless a preservation option can be negotiated and implemented, the expansion plans call for the first and southernmost of three expansion parcels to be developed at any time. The parcel lies directly west of the 18th -century Belle Grove Mansion. In addition to destruction of battlefield land, the blasting and dust from this initial expansion directly threaten the structure itself, and viewshed and traffic impacts diminish the historic character of the surrounding landscape. The northernmost parcels – the site of the Confederate high-water mark – could be developed as soon as 2018.