“All Americans have an important and urgent duty to perform in preserving these battlefields. This is an investment in the education of present and future generations of Americans about events that changed forever America's ideas about individual freedom and national unity”
~ (Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, 1992)
Recognizing the threat posed to our Civil War history and historic resources “as a serious national problem…Congress established, by public law, the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission” on November 2, 1990 (CWSAC) (Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, 1992)
The CWSAC was established by Congress because, “the nation’s Civil War heritage is in grave danger [as] It is being demolished and bulldozed at an alarming pace.” (Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, 1992). Officially established by public law…because of national concern over the increasing loss of Civil War sites, the 15-member Commission, appointed by Congress and by the Secretary of the Interior, was asked to identify the nation's historically significant Civil War sites; determine their relative importance. determine their condition; assess threats to their integrity; and recommend alternatives for preserving and interpreting them” (p. inside cover). The Commission’s findings, the publication of which was “financed by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior” (p.65), were released in a final report in 1992 entitled, “The Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report on the Nation’s Battlefields.”
The CWASC report found that our “nations Civil War heritage was “disappearing under buildings, parking lots, and highways.” (Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, 1992). The report recognized that “especially impacted are the battlefields because of their relatively large size, generally open character, and frequent proximity to today’s expanding population centers.” It further stated that “the nation needs a solution to this problem” (p. Forward).
In concert with the CWSAC's Report, Congress moved to protect and preserve our nations historic battlefields though the passage of:
PUBLIC LAW 104–333 (PL104-333) —NOV. 12, 1996
TITLE VI—CIVIL AND REVOLUTIONARY WAR SITES
Sec. 606 of PL 104-333 , "Shenandoah Valley battlefields," also known as the "Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District and Commission Act of 1996. (16 USC 461)," addresses the establishment of the Shenandoah Valley Historic District and the importance of preserving our Valley's Civil War battlefields.
(1) there are situated in the Shenandoah Valley in the Commonwealth of Virginia the sites of several key Civil War battles;
(2) certain sites, battlefields, structures, and districts in the Shenandoah Valley are collectively of national significance in the history of the Civil War;
(3) in 1992, the Secretary of the Interior issued a comprehensive study [The Civil War Sites Advisory Commission (CWSAC) Report on the Nation’s Battlefields] of significant sites and structures associated with Civil War battles in the Shenandoah Valley, and found that many of the sites within the Shenandoah Valley possess national significance and retain a high degree of historical integrity;
(4) the preservation and interpretation of these sites will make a vital contribution to the understanding of the heritage of the United States;
(5) the preservation of Civil War sites within a regional framework requires cooperation among local property owners and Federal, State, and local government entities; and
(6) partnerships between Federal, State, and local governments, the regional entities of such governments, and the private sector offer the most effective opportunities for the enhancement and management of the Civil War battlefields and related sites in the Shenandoah Valley.
(1) preserve, conserve, and interpret the legacy of the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley;
(2) recognize and interpret important events and geographic locations representing key Civil War battles in the Shenandoah Valley, including those battlefields associated with the Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson campaign of 1862 and the decisive campaigns of 1864;
(3) recognize and interpret the effect of the Civil War on the civilian population of the Shenandoah Valley during the war and postwar reconstruction period; and
(4) create partnerships among Federal, State, and local governments, the regional entities of such governments, and the private sector to preserve, conserve, enhance, and interpret the nationally significant battlefields and related sites associated with the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley.
On November 12, 1996, with the passage of Public Law 104-333, Congress designated eight counties (Augusta, Clark, Frederick, Highland, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren) in the Shenandoah Valley, as a National Battlefield Site - "The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District ."
The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District preserves and interprets the region’s significant Civil War battlefields and related historic sites.
This effort is led by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, which works with partners to preserve the hallowed ground of the Valley’s Civil War battlefields, to share its Civil War story with the nation, and to encourage tourism and travel to the Valley’s Civil War sites.
Some 10,500-armed conflicts occurred during the Civil War ranging from battles to minor skirmishes; 384 conflicts (3.7 percent) were identified by the CWSAC as the principal battles and classified as A, B, C, or D according to their historic significance.
Class A and B battlefields represent the principal strategic operations of the war. Class C and D battlefields usually represent operations with limited tactical objectives of enforcement and occupation.
The Commission identified Cedar Creek as a Priority I, Class A battlefield – “having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war."
Documentation of key battlefields by the CWSAC was conducted “at two levels based on careful examination of official records and other sources as well as using established survey and evaluation criteria…these levels are the Study Area and Core Area.”
CWSAC examination and documentation of the Cedar Creek Battlefield designated:
ABPP CWSAC Battlefield Boundary (Study Area - Yellow), Cedar Creek, East of Interstate 81 Exit 302, Middletown, VA (American Battlfield Trust, 2022)
ABPP CWSAC Core Area (Pink): Cedar Creek: East of Interstate 81 Exit 302, Middletown, VA. (American Battlfield Trust, 2022)
ABPP CWSAC Study and Core Areas, and 0 Reliance Rd (location of proposed Sheetz); Battle of Cedar Creek. (American Battlfield Trust, 2022)
Federally established battlefield boundary lines are not indicative of ownership by the U.S. National Park system or other federal government agencies. Battlefield qwnership is a complex matrix of interests and parties. In fact, the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission found that “only 4 percent of the principal battlefields examined [were] owned primarily by the Federal, state, or local governments” (Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, 1992). Further, the Commission reported that “Forty-three percent of the battlefields are completely in private ownership. An additional 49 percent are under multiple kinds of ownership (e.g., private, state, and Federal)” (p. 3-4).
The Cedar Creek battlefield is no different. As previously indicated, the Commission identified that the Cedar Creek battlefield boundary (study area) encompasses 13,860.09 total acres with 6,248.47 acres identified as core battlefield (Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, 1992). Most of the lands comprising this Priority I, Class A Cedar Creek battlefield, are owned by private citizens. For example, the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park consists of approximately over 3,700 acres within the park's authorized boundary; [however], over half of this is still privately owned and much of the battlefield is not accessible to the public” (Wikipedia.com, 2021).
Exampled below, is a list of some of the owners of Cedar Creek Battlefield inside and outside of the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park boundary lines, but completely within the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission’s Cedar Creek battlefield boundary study and core areas. (U.S. National Park Service, 2022).
In the early morning hours of October 19th, 1864, Confederate troops under the command of General Jubal Early launched a surprise attack on Union troops, under the command of Major General Phillip Sheridan, who were encamped along Cedar Creek, south of Middletown, Virginia. Although Union troops attempted to repulse the attack, collapsing back upon one another, they were routed and retreated northward heading towards Winchester.
By mid-morning, Early felt his troops had won a spectacular victory and halted their advance just north of Middletown. Early reformed his line with his right flank extending east of modern-day Interstate 81 along Reliance Rd., beyond Confidence Lane, to Huttle Rd. The Union retreat was stopped, and the Union line reformed in opposition. Cavalry regiments from Gen. Sheridan's First Division under the command of Brigadier General Wesley Merritt were positioned on the left flank, which was situated on and around Thorndale farm.
Late in the afternoon, Gen. Sheridan commenced his counterattack. After a long day of fighting, the Union proved victorious, pushing the Confederates south through Middletown and back across Cedar Creek. With 5,700 Federal and 2,900 Confederate casualties, The Battle of Cedar Creek was the second bloodiest of the Shenandoah Valley campaigns. (U. S. National Park Service, 2022).
The Battle of Cedar Creek proved to be a key battle “having a decisive influence on a [military] campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war” (Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, 1992). “The Federal victory shattered Early's army. Further Confederate resistance in the Valley ended. Coming just three weeks before the U.S. presidential election, news of the Battle of Cedar Creek gave sagging Northern morale a much-needed boost and helped carry Abraham Lincoln to a landslide reelection.” (U. S. National Park Service, 2022).
Today, the 19.5-acres that makes up 0 Reliance Rd. is the last vestige of undeveloped core battlefield that exists on the east side of Interstate 81, at Exit 302. The unique location of this “hallowed ground” is a vitally significant part of the story of the Battle of Cedar Creek. With “more than one-third of all principal Civil War battlefields…either lost or are hanging onto existence by the slenderest of threads.” (Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, 1992), preserving this land and its archaeological record from destruction by Sheetz is imperative.
Protecting this location and the archaeological record of this section of battlefield from destruction by the Sheetz Corporation preserves an important educational and historic asset of a nation because (p.3):
References 16 USC 461. (1996). Shenandoah Valley Battefields National Historic District Commission Act of 1996.
American Battlfield Trust. (2022, February 3). ABPP CWSAC Battlefield Boundary Ceder Creek: Middltown, VA; Cedar Creek Battlefield Core and Study Areas: American Battlefield Trust. Retrieved from American Battlefield Trust: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=1ee89c837c714e2db11c7ec386ebf843
Civil War Sites Advisory Commission. (1992). Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report on the Nation's Civil War Battlefields. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Parks Service.
Gillespie , G. L.; Bvt. Lt. Col. . (1873). Battle fields of Fisher's Hill [22 Sept. 1864] and Cedar Creek [19 Oct. 1864], Virginia; Map: Library of Congress. Retrieved from Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/item/2006626068/
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District. (2022, February 4). About: Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District. Retrieved from Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District: https://www.shenandoahatwar.org/about
U. S. National Park Service. (2022, February 7). Battle of Cedar Creek; From Back Country to Breadbasket to Battlefield and Beyond; Article; U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved from U.S. National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/battle-of-cedar-creek.htm
U.S. National Park Service. (2022, February 5). Partners: Get Involved: Park Home: Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historic Park: NPS.com. Retrieved from U.S. National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/cebe/getinvolved/partners.htm
U.S. National Park Service. (2022, February 4). Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation National Historic District: Places: U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved from U.S. National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/places/shenandoah-valley-battlefields-national-historic-district.htm
Wikipedia.com. (2021, November 29). Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park: Wikipedia . Retrieved from Wikipedia.com : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedar_Creek_and_Belle_Grove_National_Historical_Park
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