Classes start in less than a week. As I gear up for the beginning of my senior year, I cannot believe how fast summer went by. With that being said, I would like to reflect on the past three and half months that was the summer 2014.
When the spring semester ended, I began my third year at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park. With the sesquicentennial rapidly approaching the park this October, I am constantly engaged in the planning process, carrying out special programs and, conducting original research at the park. I worked on the park’s website, assisted with the park’s social media and worked with visitors. Above and beyond regular in park interpretative programs, there were numerous special programs and tours I led.
One of these was a two day experience with the Little Bighorn History Associates in June. This group of 150 is avid George Custer aficionados. Needless to say, they hold an annual conference traveling to Custer related sites. With this year being the sesquicentennial of the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, they made their base in Winchester. During their five day conference, they traveled to battlefields from Harpers Ferry to Toms Brook and Cedar Creek. I was responsible for leading bus tours for the group at Cedar Creek. I did original research at the park examining the role of George Custer and the Third Cavalry division at Cedar Creek. When they arrived I led two three hour bus tours of Cedar Creek, taking the group Custer related sites such as Hites Chapel. The following day, I presented a lecture focusing on Custer and Sheridan’s relationship at Cedar Creek. To practice my analytical and writing skills during the summer, I took all this information and produced a scholarly essay containing a historiographical footnote and annotated bibliography.
Another special program I conducted was part of the park’s History at Sunset Series. On July 11th, I presented “A House Divided: The Heater Farm at Cedar Creek.” I led visitors through parts of the battlefield not accessible on an everyday basis. We discussed the history of the Heater Farm, the Heaters during the Civil War and how the Battle of Cedar Creek was literally brought to their front door. It was nice to see some familiar faces and receive support from local constituents. I will be presenting this program again this fall, during the anniversary weekend on October 17th.
One of the most rewarding experiences of my summer took place on July 24th. On this day, I lead a group through the Kernstown battlefield exactly 150 years after the Second Battle of Kernstown. Part of the parks, “On This Day” tours, it was a privilege to represent the National Park Service. To read more about this click here.
In August I presented two lectures to the Village at Orchard Ridge Lutheran Community. I first spoke briefly on the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign leading up to the Battle of Cedar Creek. The second lecture focused on the Battle of Cedar Creek proper. Folks really seemed to enjoy it, and I even got a local history group interested in traveling to the park in the future for a tour of the battlefield.
Another great experience this summer was my short stint as a guest blogger and author on Emerging Civil War. Here, I authored numerous pieces on the summer campaign here in the Valley. I was able to practice my interpretative writing, and at the same time reach a larger audience outside of our park. To read my posts visit their site, or click here.
The 150th Anniversary of the fall Shenandoah Valley Campaign is right around the corner. As we near this, I am preparing numerous programs. First, I will be participating in the events commemorating the Third Battle of Winchester on Saturday, September 20th. I will be at the Third Winchester Battlefield interpreting and orienting visitors to the battle. For more information on these events click here, or contact me directly. On September 26th, I will be presenting a special History at Sunset at the park. During this program I will use my research from earlier in the summer to lead a tour focusing on George Custer at Cedar Creek.
Looking towards the 150th of Cedar Creek, my interpretative schedule has been set. On October 17th , I will be doing two special programs. First, during the day I will be at the summit of Signal Knob. On October 17th, 1864 Confederate officers trekked to Signal Knob to observe the Union Army. Exactly 150 years later, I will be in the same spot, interpreting the landscape and discussing how the Confederates conceived their plan of attack. That evening, I will be presenting my Heater House program again at 5:00pm.
Moving forward to Saturday, October 18th, the park will have battlefield stations throughout the battlefield interpreting key aspects of the battle. I will present programs during the morning hours. Later that day, from 2-4pm I will lead a car caravan tour focusing on the use of Cavalry at Cedar Creek. What I am really excited for however takes place the next morning on October 19th, the actual anniversary of the battle.
Starting at 5:00am on October 19th, the park will be conducting “real-time programs.” This will take visitors through the battlefield exactly 150 years later to the hour after the battle. These tours will start in the dark, and go all the way through the evening, concluding at 6:00pm. I am fortunate enough to have the privilege and amazing opportunity to be one of three rangers presenting these programs.
Stay tuned for the hour by hour schedule for the events taking place at the park from October 17th-20th. It will be available later this month, and I will make sure to post it.
Needless to say, I have been neck deep in research for all of these programs. With school right around the corner, the next two months are going to be busy to say the least. But, with this being the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, I am privileged and excited to take part in this special time in our nation’s history.