The Battles of Cool Spring and Rutherford’s Farm

As I attempt to keep up with the 150th events in the Shenandoah Valley, my two latest posts have appeared on Emerging Civil War.

To read about the Battle of Cool Spring on July 18th, 1864, click here.

150 Years Ago today, the Battle of Rutherford’s Farm occurred. To read my post on this battle click here.

Also, my “On This Day” tour of the Second Battle of Kernstown will take place this Thursday, July 24th from 4-6pm at the Kernstown Battlefield. For information on this tour, click here, or contact me personally.

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Was Early’s Raid to D.C. a Success?

My short stint as a guest author on the Emerging Civil War Blog began today.

Follow along as I track some of the events that took place in the Shenandoah Valley 150 years ago this summer.

Here is my first post that was posted today:

http://emergingcivilwar.com/2014/07/14/was-earlys-raid-to-washington-d-c-a-success/

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Guest Blogger on Emerging Civil War

Next week, my first of numerous posts will be featured on the popular, Emerging Civil War’s Blog. I will be a guest author writing and blogging on events that took place 150 years ago in the Shenandoah Valley. These include the Battles of Cool Spring, Rutherford’s Farm, Second Kernstown and more. My fellow Ranger, friend and author, Phil Greenwalt approached me with this great opportunity.

This is part of a bigger effort to promote special events taking place at the park. With the sesquicentennial of the Civil War underway, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park is rapidly approaching the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Creek in October. Myself and my other compatriots at the park are holding numerous special events leading up to this. These include special “On This Day” tours, History at Sunset programs and a brand new lecture series the park is hosting. In an effort to promote these events, especially the “On This Day” tours I will be writing and blogging on these battles and actions.

For more information about these upcoming events, check out Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP’s park’s website here. Or, keep up to date via the park’s Facebook page, here. I will post links to my posts from the Emerging Civil War Blog as the appear on the anniversary dates.

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A Trip to Mosby’s Confederacy

Last week, my friend and fellow Ranger, Shannon informed me that Carol Bundy would be speaking in nearby Aldie, Virginia. Carol Bundy is an author and historian from Boston, Massachusetts. She is known in the Civil War community for her excellent biography on Charles Russell Lowell Jr., The Nature of Sacrifice: A Biography of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr.  This Boston born horseman inspired one of the park’s most successful programs known simply as, “The Lost Generation.” In this program, Shannon examines two men whos lives experiences paralleled each other before the war. Both men were mortally wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek. These two men, Stephen D. Ramseur and Charles Russell Lowell exemplify this “lost generation” of men who perished during the Civil War. One of Shannon’s inspirations for this program was the biography written by Carol. So after work this past Saturday, we headed into Mosby’s Confederacy to meet some friends for the event.

The organization sponsoring this event was the Mosby Heritage Area Association. This non-profit group preserves numerous acres of land in Northern Virginia as well as restoring historic properties to their 19th century appearances; all for the effort in “education through preservation.” Most recently, the MHHA implemented interpretative signage at the Mt. Zion Historic Park, a part of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority system. The program began with the unveiling of these five new sign. Two greetvisitors at the parking lot giving historical context to the site, two interpret the cavalry action that took place there in 1864 and the final is located next to the historic cemetery.

View of the historic Mt. Zion Church

View of the historic Mt. Zion Church

During the summer months of July 1864, Col. Charles Russell Lowell Jr. was given the impossible task of dealing with John S. Mosby and the 43rd Virginia Battalion. Russell’s brigade was situated between the Union capital at Washington D.C. to the east and “Mosby’s Confederacy” to the west. During the first week of July 1864, Union troopers from New Jersey and Massachusetts under Maj. Forbes clashed with Mosby’s rangers at the Mt. Zion Church. This clash was a resounding victory for Mosby’s men. To commemorate the 150th Anniverary of this event, MHHA dedicated these signs and brought Carol Bundy to Dixieland to speak.

The group then headed into the newly restored Mt. Zion Church to hear Carol Bundy’s remarks. Bundy introduced herself and began to talk about the rag-tag brigade that Lowell commanded in 1864. She mentioned that these men were from the urban areas of the northeast and even included men from California known as the “California 100″. She poetically described the men’s frustrating experiences attempting to deal with Mosby in 1864, culminating at the action occurring at Mt. Zion Church. The action was quickly described as Bundy moved to the relationship forged between Union Major Forbes and Mosby following the Civil War. This friendship born on the battlefield blossomed in the post war decades. The lecture concluded with Carol fielding questions from the crowd, who not surprisingly enough focused their questions on the Civil War military actions of Mosby and Lowell.

Carol Bundy speaks to the crowd inside the church

Carol Bundy speaks to the crowd inside the church

Following the lecture, I purchased my own copy of her biography and asked Carol one last question. After the Battle of Cedar Creek, Gen. George Custer traveled to Washington D.C. to present the thirteen captured Rebel flags from the battle to the War Department. I heard through the grapevine that Gen. Sheridan’s first choice was actually Lowell, not Custer. So I asked Carol this question. She responded stating following the Battle of Antietam some two years prior, Lowell was the man who presented Rebel flags in D.C., not Custer. Carol elaborating saying that the men of his own division loved Lowell; and there would have been no other choice if he had survived. Finally, she cited a conversation between Custer and a Massachusetts politician when Custer visits D.C. Here, she points to the fact that in this dialogue, Custer said he was the second choice and Lowell would have been the first.

I found this lecture and event highly enjoyable and added yet another book to my growing library collection. At the same time, I was tad bit disappointed. Once again, the majority of the crowd attending the event were older, white and male.  As the excitement of the Civil War Sesquicentennial comes to an end next year, what will the future of Civil War history be? That is a question for yet another day.

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“it won’t appear in history!”: Early’s Raid on Washington D.C. and return to the Shenandoah Valley

Confederate Gen. Jubal Early’s time in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864 was extensive. From his first appearance near Lynchburg on June 17th to the crippling defeat at Cedar Creek on October 19th. His tenure is marked by both blistering defeats and remarkable victories. One of these victories took place 150 years ago as he pushed towards the Union capital, Washington D.C.

Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early. West Point graduate of 1837 and lawyer before the Civil War.

Native Virginian Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early. West Point graduate of 1837 and lawyer before the Civil War.

By July 12th 1864, Early’s command was on the outskirts of Washington D.C. Debate ensued whether to push into the city, as Union reinforcements filed into the city’s defenses. When Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant heard of the threat to D.C. he quickly sent the Union 6th and 19th Corps to the capital. By doing this, the number of men threatening Lee in Richmond depleted by nearly 15,000. This loss of men proved detrimental to Grant’s grand strategy in the summer of 1864. By July 14th, knowing he could push no farther, Early headed back west towards the Valley of Virginia. Major Henry Kyd Douglass simply recalled Early’s reaction to this maneuver, “Major, we haven’t taken Washington, but we’ve scared Abe Lincoln like hell!”

Early’s Confederate veterans crossed the Potomac at White’s Ford on July 14th and made his headquarters around Berryville. A Georgian in Early’s command, G.W. Nichols breathed a sigh of relief, “We were all glad to back to Dixie land, for we never loved to cross the Potomac going north.” The Union 6th Corps under Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright followed the Confederates.

However the question stands was Early successful up to this point? Originally, Lee dispatched the Second Corps and Early to secure the rail lines in Lynchburg, which he did. Then, Early quickly marched down the Shenandoah Valley, captured Harpers Ferry, threatened Washington D.C. and forced Grant to pay more attention the Valley. Early did more than what was asked of him. His job in the Valley was similar to that of Stonewall Jackson’s two years prior. Be a distraction and keep Union forces away from Richmond. Early had done just that by threatening Washington D.C., and forcing Grant to send two Union corps from Petersburg. Early however, was not done.

Stay tuned as we follow his actions as he re-enters the Shenandoah Valley 150 years ago. To commemorate these events, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park will be conducting special “On This Day” Battlefield Tours. These tours will occur exactly 150 years after certain actions took place in the Valley. Tours include The Battle of Cool Spring on July 18th, Battle of Rutherford’s Farm on July 20th and the Battle of Second Kernstown on July 24th. All of these tours are free and we encourage visitors to walk in the footsteps of these soldiers some 150 years later. For more information, visit our website at www.nps.gov/cebe. Or call us at 540-869-3051. Also, like our Facebook page at, https://www.facebook.com/CedarCreekNPS.

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Internship Journal: Week Fourteen

This weekend I completed my required hours for my undergraduate internship. I will still continue to work at the park for the foreseeable future, as long as I am a student. But, I want to use this time to reflect on some I accomplishments and skills I have learned in this four month period of my spring semester.

First, I completed my research and outline for the 150th Anniversary Tour of Second Kernstown. This tour will be given on July 24th, exactly 150 years following the battle in 1864. I will lead visitors on a 90 minute interpretative hike and program through the battlefield, interpreting the battle and its consequences. During my internship, I conducted detailed research regarding the battle itself. There is not a standalone monograph on the battle, therefore I had to consult a plethora of sources. I pulled information from campaign histories, scholarly articles, newspapers, memoirs, official records and biographies to name a few. I applied my skills I learned from History 395 in consulting certain research databases, source analysis and compilation of sources. After my research was completed, I composed an outline for my program that stated my theme, had my tour stops and transitions. Following my outline I wrote an annotated bibliography. I did this for two reasons. One, so my supervisor can see the sources that I consulted in my research. Secondly, I did this for future rangers here at the park. If someone is going to do research on the Battle of Second Kernstown, they can consult this bibliography and use it as a jumping off point for further research.

I also met with the President of the Kernstown Battlefield Association, Gary Crawford numerous times. Initially, the first meeting was to discuss logistics, timing and to plan for the event. More recently, he brought me out to the battlefield itself and gave me detailed and in depth tour of Second Kernstown. This confirmed some of my research and made me more comfortable regarding my interpretation on the battle.

Looking south from Pritchard's Hill. Notice the stone wall in the trees, this is where the main Union line engaged the Confederate forces

Looking south from Pritchard’s Hill. Notice the stone wall in the trees, this is where the main Union line engaged the Confederate forces

In conclusion, after I did all the research and outline, I wrote an interpretative essay for Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP’s website. It was challenging because I had to be succinct and yet at the same time detailed in my writing. Once completed and proofread, I accessed the park’s website via CMS and uploaded the page myself. This was a great experience learning how to use web designing software and the intricacies that withholds as well. You can find the essay here.

Secondly, during my internship I was able to contribute to the park’s social media presence. I crafted Facebook posts and engaged with visitors virtually. One of the more successful posts was a modern picture I edited to have a historical image overlay it. This garnered numerous “likes” and shares. I enjoyed experimenting with images this way and hope to make some more headway with this during the summer.

Modern day picture of Belle Grove with a 1883 photograph overlapping

Modern day picture of Belle Grove with a 1883 photograph overlapping

One of the most fulfilling parts of being at the park is giving interpretative programs. I absolutely love this. Meeting visitors from across the country and educating them on the park’s resources is amazingly fulfilling. It is also rewarding when visitors comment to your supervisors about your effectiveness. In the last month my supervisor has received emails from visitors on my programs. One visitor remarked in part, “the enthusiasm of this highly knowledgeable guy who told the story of the battle in such a compelling way, that we felt transported back to the time of the battle.  It was fantastic! If Kyle is an indicator of the future of the NPS, it is in good hands.”

Besides conducting programs, I thoroughly enjoy interacting with visitors at our Visitor Contact Station. You never know what stories people will bring with them through that door. This weekend, a couple for Pittsburgh was visiting the park. Come to find out, their great-great grandfather had a house on the battlefield and were looking for it. Using a historical map produced by Jedediah Hotchkiss, I was able to show the couple where the house was on the battlefield. Unfortunately, the property is outside of the park’s boundaries. Since the majority of research material at the park is on its resources (inside park boundaries) I did not have a surplus of information. But, I was able to give them information on how to access the maps via Library of Congress and directions to where the site would be today. Unfortunately, I think that the property was located where the Carmeuse Limestone Quarry is today.

Hotchkiss map of Cedar Creek showing visitor's old family homestead known as Belle View

Hotchkiss map of Cedar Creek showing visitor’s old family homestead known as Belle View

Moving forward, I think I have learned numerous skills from History 395 I can apply here at my position. One of them is my analysis and collection of sources. Knowing how to look at a source from different angles proves immensely helpful, especially when dealing with soldier’s memoirs and autobiographies. I hope to continue to post regularly as the summer months are coming upon us. I have numerous interpretative projects in the works and look forward to sharing them.

Hours completed this week: 8

Total hours completed: 160

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Internship Journal: Week Thirteen

On Monday, April 14th I visited the Kernstown Battlefield with Gary Crawford for a site visit and orientation. During this time, Gary (the President of the Kernstown Battlefield Association) took me on a tour of the battlefield. He first brought me to the peak of Pritchard’s Hill. There you get a commanding view of the battlefield and could easily see all of the distinguishable land features used during the battle. He pointed out where and how the Confederate attack deployed and developed as well as the roadways used. Following this, he brought me into the Visitor Center and showed me their exhibits and continued to talk to me about the battle. We talked about my program on July 24th, and decided my first stop will be outside their Visitor Center, then I will lead visitors to the top of Prithcard’s Hill, then to the stone wall where Col. James Mulligan was shot and conclude the tour in front of the Pritchard-Grim House. Gary’s insight proved highly insightful to me gaining a better understanding of the battle. Now that I have walked the battlefield, my confidence level regarding the battle has gone up.

Looking east from Pritchard's Hill. This is where the Confederate flank attack began

Looking east from Pritchard’s Hill. This is where the Confederate flank attack began

Looking south from Pritchard's Hill. Notice the stone wall in the trees, this is where the main Union line engaged the Confederate forces

Looking south from Pritchard’s Hill. Notice the stone wall in the trees, this is where the main Union line engaged the Confederate forces

At the park this last weekend, we started to use our new Junior Ranger program. The Junior Ranger program is a NPS wide program used to engage children and educate them on the park’s resources. Activity booklets are given to children and they are required to fill out a certain amount of activites in order for them to become a Junior Ranger. These activities range from crossword puzzles, battlefield quests (find landmarks on the battlefield), ask a Ranger, etc. When they are complete a Ranger will go over their answers and then swear them in as a Junior Ranger. Our park just completed our beta version of our booklet. Therefore, this weekend we tested this out with children coming to the park. We asked them to comment on the activities, look for mistakes and, tell us any suggestions they may have. On Saturday four children came in and were ecstatic about the program. They spent about an hour going through the exhibits here the Visitor Contact Station before they completed the booklet. They caught a couple mistakes in the word search and gave great comments regarding the activities. We plan to have a professionally printed version of the Junior Ranger booklet in the coming weeks.

We also had a busy weekend with great visitors traveling to our park. On Saturday, we had over 30 people visit our Visitor Contact Station alone! (This is a lot for such a new and small park). The range of visitors was nice to see. We had everyone from your typical “Civil War Buffs” to families and even descendants of men who fought here at the battle. I always love meeting descendants of soldiers when I am at the park. They often will know what regiment he fought in and whether he survived or not. Then, I get to pull out numerous maps in an attempt to orient folks to where that certain regiment was during the battle. Sometimes folks want to know the exact spot where someone died. This is almost impossible. Rather, I point to the brigade, or even regimental level and guide them to where they were in the battle at certain times. This allows people to travel through the battlefield and trace the steps of their ancestors.

Myself with four new Cedar Creek and Belle Grove Junior Rangers

Myself with four new Cedar Creek and Belle Grove Junior Rangers

Pritchard-Grim House

Pritchard-Grim House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, during my time here this weekend I put the final touches on my Kernstown program. I added transitions to my outline as well as inserted the various stops during my tour. I also completed my interpretative essay for our park’s website. In conjunction to completing this, I had the opportunity to work on the website and add it myself. The NPS uses a system known as CMS for building and editing web pages. When it works, CMS is highly user friendly, but it is prone to crash. What I did first is went in and first created a new page. The page contatined the title (The Second Battle of Kernstown), the text to my essay and an image. Once that was formatted properly, I had to add the page to park’s list of pages. Once that was completed, I needed put the new page under the “places” heading on our sidebar. This is when it got a little confusing. Trying to link pages to other pages got a little complicated, but after some trial and error I figured it out. Finally, after the page was loaded, I needed to create a link from our History and Culture home page to the essay itself. This was easy as all I had to do was edit that page and add a link from another part of our website to that page. Click here to view my essay.

Screen used to link pages together in CMS

Screen used to link pages together in CMS

 

Hours Completed this week: 20

Total Hours Completed: 152

 

 

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