Friday, October 16, 2009
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation preserves additional acreage at Cedar Creek

The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation announced on July 21 the purchase of a 137-acre farm on the Cedar Creek battlefield, one of ten battlefields in the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District.


Known as Fair Meadows Farm, the property lies in Warren County and is situated south of Interstate 66 and north of the confluence of Cedar Creek and the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.  It also offers spectacular views of Signal Knob at the north end of the Massanutten Mountain, the site of a Confederate signal station.  The acquisition took place in two phases over the last two years.


The farm is inside the boundary of the new Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.  The purchase brings the amount of land protected in the national park over the 1,000-acre mark for the first time.   Almost a third of the land in the 3,500-acre park is now protected from incompatible development. The Battlefields Foundation now owns 271 acres within the park boundary.  Other partners, including Shenandoah County, have protected 845 acres for a grand total of 1,116 protected acres.  The Foundation will work with the National Park Service and local partners to incorporate the property into the interpretive program in the park, which is still in its formative stages.


The property is a portion of a 335-acre farm owned by the Powers family of Winchester.  The family will continue to own and operate the remainder of Fair Meadows Farm.  David Powers, a physician at Winchester Medical Center, and his brothers Joe and Randy spent their summers on the farm while growing up.  That experience made them acutely aware of the historic significance of the property and spurred to their desire for it to be protected. 


�My father purchased the farm in 1964 and was taken with its scenic beauty, said David Powers. �Having grown up in Strasburg, he was well aware of Signal Knob and the fords on the property which were used during the Confederate advance at Cedar Creek.  Our family strongly feels that land preservation and historic preservation are crucial to our legacy to Frederick, Warren, and Shenandoah counties.�


Battlefields Foundation Executive Director Howard Kittell said, �The Battlefields Foundation depends on landowners like the Powers family who care about their heritage and want to see their land and the battlefields protected. Without willing landowners who share our concerns, the foundation�s land protection efforts would be dead in the water.�


The land was the site of the opening phases of the Battle of Cedar Creek, one of the largest battles west of the Blue Ridge and the final major battle in the Shenandoah Valley.  On and around the property, in the predawn mists of October 19, 1864, Confederate forces launched a devastating surprise attack on Union troops, many of whom were still asleep in their tents.  The battle would rage for another 12 hours and sweep miles north, beyond Middletown, as Union forces organized an afternoon counterattack that reversed the Confederacy�s morning gains.


The Confederate surprise attack at Cedar Creek is considered one of the most daring and successful maneuvers of its kind and is studied by military theorists today,� stated a 1992 National Park Service study of the Valley�s Civil War battlefields. �It was a feat �unduplicated� during the Civil War.�  Today the annual fall reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek - sponsored by the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation and Belle Grove Plantation - is of one of the largest Civil War living history demonstrations in the country, featuring more than 8,000 reenactors each year.


In 1996, U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (VA-10) led the effort in Congress to create the National Historic District and in 2002 was the chief sponsor of the legislation that created the national park at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove.


�This is just another example of how well this partnership in the Valley is developing,� Wolf said.  �Preserving the region's heritage in a way that benefits all involved was the goal behind the legislation.�


Cedar Creek and Belle Grove is considered a �partnership park� � much of the land within the park is and will remain in private ownership.  Management and interpretive programs will be coordinated with local organizations and governments. 


�As one of the partners named in the park�s establishing legislation, the Battlefields Foundation has an important role to play in helping to protect the battlefield landscape within the park,� said park superintendent Diann Jacox. 


Jacox continued, �In addition, at recent scoping meetings for the new park�s management plan, the local community expressed considerable interest in protecting the natural and cultural resources within the park boundary. So we are very pleased with this announcement by the Foundation.  Coordinated interpretation of this property will also highlight the partnership that exists between the National Park Service, the Battlefields Foundation, and other non-profit and local government partners.�


Since its creation in 2000, the Battlefields Foundation has protected almost 1,000 acres at eight of the ten battlefields in the National Historic District, one quarter of that within the last month.  Including those accomplishments, the Foundation has 49 projects underway totaling more than 4,000 acres and there is at least one land protection project underway at each of the ten battlefields.


The Battle of Cedar Creek


At dawn, 19 October 1864, the Confederate Army of the Valley stunned and routed the Federal army at Cedar Creek.  Union troops rallied in the afternoon, launched a crushing counterattack, and won the battle.  The Federal victory at Cedar Creek broke the back of the Confederate army in the Shenandoah Valley.  President Abraham Lincoln rode the momentum of victories in the Valley and Union successes in Georgia to re-election. 


In the days before the battle, the Union Army of the Shenandoah was encamped on the heights above Cedar Creek.  The Federals considered their left (eastern) flank protected by the North Fork Shenandoah River and rough ground in front of the Massanutten Mountain.



After dark on 18 October, a Confederate column advanced north on the Valley Pike (modern-day U.S. 11) through Strasburg.  They diverged to the east on the road to Bowman�s Mill Ford, across Cedar Creek from the Fair Meadows Farm property, where they prepared for the dawn attack, forming the Confederate center.  At 5:00 AM, Confederates at Bowman�s Mill Ford fired a volley and rushed the federal entrenchments on the Fair Meadows Farm property, overrunning them.  Much of this initial assault took place on the farm property.


Contributed by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation,

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