2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the Second Battle of Manassas, one of a series of bloody engagements in the summer of 1862 in which the fortunes of the Civil War briefly swung in the Confederates’ favor. Here, as in the first battle in 1861, the Rebels triumphed convincingly.
Now, a portion of the battlefield is threatened by a proposed Washington outerbelt. While it is clear that the traffic in the DC metro area is horrendous (as I have found out painfully many times this summer, including a 4-hour delay coming through DC after my Florida vacation in June), locating an interstate on a battlefield does not make sense if there are other alternatives on less historic ground.
Stewart Schwartz is a descendant of famed Confederate horse artillerist, John Pelham, known as the Boy Major. He fought at both battles at Manassas, and now his descendant is fighting another battle. Schwartz is the Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a lobbying group which is trying to spread the word of the threatened battlefield and help develop other plans. Click here to visit his website and here to sign a petition to protest the planned route.
Stewart writes, “Please see the joint press release below explaining the significant concerns of preservation groups about the proposed highway at Manassas. This is shaping up to be the biggest battle to protect Manassas since the Disney fight in 1994.
The joint comments on the draft Section 106 Historic Preservation agreement are attached along with VDOT’s letter and the draft agreement with the National Park Service that we find to be significantly flawed. Attorneys at the Southern Environmental Law Center and National Trust for Historic Preservation played a key role in drafting our response.”
Stewart Schwartz can be reached at email@example.com.
The recent clear cutting of the non-historic woods that have overgrown the southern part of the Gettysburg battlefield has resulted in a much more open appearance. The view from Little Round Top looking southwesterly toward Devil’s Den and beyond to Warfield Ridge is now quite striking, and one can get a little better sense of the terrain beyond the rocky Plum Run Valley area. On this gorgeous Saturday in mid-April, the tourists were out in droves, as well as hundreds of boy scouts from a wide variety of states.
The National Park Service is to be commended for its long-term focus on restoring historic site lines at Gettysburg National Military Park, and the tree-cutting is still is progress (most recently near the McAllister farm).
A model orchard marks this section of the Artillery Ridge Campground’s HO scale Gettysburg diorama. Photo by Randy Miller.
Gettysburg National Military Park News Release
For Release: April 8, 2009
Contact: Katie Lawhon
Phone: 717/ 334-1124 x 3121
Gettysburg NMP Plants More Battlefield Orchards This Week
This week, Gettysburg National Military Park is replanting four more historic orchards in major battle action areas on the battlefield. Contractors for the National Park Service will replant 30 acres of orchards with hardy varieties of apple so visitors can better understand the fighting and see the battlefield through the eyes of the soldiers fighting in 1863.
The project includes replanting the largest orchard in the park – the McMillan Orchard which is 26 acres along both sides of West Confederate Avenue. In addition, the park is replanting the orchards at the Timbers Farm, Klingel farm and at the Spangler farm at East Cavalry Battlefield. The contractor is Hively and the trees are six varieties of hardy apple.
According to park historians, almost every farm of any size in 1863 Gettysburg had an orchard, usually of a size in proportion to the farmstead. The orchards played many roles during the battle–cover from observation or from fire for both troops and artillery batteries; concealment during movement; obstructions to observation or clear fields of fire; places to gather to rest or seek medical assistance.
Since 2000, the park has replanted 79 acres at 32 historic orchard sites. The goal is to replant a total of 160 acres of orchards throughout the major battle action areas of the battlefield. For more information go to www.nps.gov/gett
The old Fort Defiance tourist trap at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is shown in this 1972 photograph provided by Mike Waricher. In the summer of 1968, my parents took my sister and me to Gettysburg for our first overnight trip to Pennsylvania (little did I know then I would be living in the Keystone State as an adult and writing books on Gettysburg!). I remember that trip with fondness! My sister Peggy and I enjoyed riding through the tunnels, and we stayed in a TraveLodge in Chambersburg. The following morning, we drove eastward on Route 30 to Gettysburg, and I will never forget the mystical experience of seeing the first monuments peering through the morning fog! I think that was the moment that I knew I was hooked.
(Click to enlarge the photo for better viewing of the details)
Elements of Albert Jenkins’ brigade of Confederate mounted infantry from (west) Virginia form dismounted skirmish battle lines on Cress Ridge (right center) during the Battle of Gettysburg. In the foreground is Col. John R. Chambliss’s mounted brigade on Hoffman Ridge. Photo of a game presented at Historicon a few years ago by Scott L. Mingus, Sr.
In the center of the above photograph is the Rummel farm, which changed hands several times during the often savage encounter. To the upper left along the Stallsmith farm lane is the Virginia brigade of FitzHugh Lee, which will later launch a major mounted attack that will be met by a pair of Michigan regiments. At the right center, dismounted Federals of George Armstrong Custer’s 6th Michigan skirmish with Jenkins’ men, now commanded by Lt. Col. Vincent Witcher. In the distance (top right corner) is John McIntosh’s Union brigade, which includes the 3rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry.
Osprey volume #201 of the Campaign Series is entitled Brandy Station 1863: First step towards Gettysburg. The author is Dr. Daniel Beattie, long considered one of the experts in this fight, and the man who wrote the text for many of the wayside markers around the battlefield. Lavishly illustrated with color photographs of the modern battlefield taken by Dan and his wife, as well as Adam Hook’s usual excellent drawings and sketches, this is one of the best treatises on Brandy Station you will find. At 96 pages, it cannot possibly fulfill the needs of researchers or readers wanting very detailed accounts of the fight and the events leading up to it, but Beattie draws upon his years of study to develop a thorough overview that lacks nothing in terms of giving the reader a solid understanding of what transpired and why. This should become the first book you recommend to friends who want an overview of the largest cavalry battle of the Civil War.
A managed woodlot along East Berlin Road (S.R. 234) in Adams County, Pennsylvania, not far from the June 30, 1863, campsite of Jubal Early’s division of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Click on the photo to enlarge it for a better look.
In a recent Johnny Reb 3 game, the conversation turned to the rules for light woods versus heavy woods. I mentioned that, at least here in south-central Pennsylvania and central Maryland, during the 1860s many farmers practiced controlled management of their woodlots. The above photo is a view I snapped today during a drive out to Gettysburg along the exact route Early’s men took to reach the battlefield. Farmers would allow cattle to graze in their woodlots, which would tramp down and munch on the underbrush. Deadfall, lower limbs, etc. would be used for kindling for fireplaces, and landowners would thin out the trees to allow spaces in the canopy for more sunlight.
The replanted Peach Orchard as seen from across the tree-lined swale on the George Rose farm at Gettysburg.
A few years ago, the National Park Service had all the trees cut down in the historic Sherfy Peach Orchard along Emmitsburg Road in the Gettysburg National Military Park. They applied nutrients to the soil and allowed the field to lay fallow for a couple of years before replanting fresh saplings. They also dramatically expanded the area covered by peach trees to more closely resemble the dimensions of the 1863 peach orchard that was defended by elements of Daniel Sickles’ III Corps of the Union Army of the Potomac. The trees are maturing well, and nearly all have survived the Pennsylvania winter and the spring rains. In addition, the NPS has replanted nearly a dozen other historic orchards, including several along Emmitsburg Road (such as the Rose Farm just south of the Peach Orchard). This is part of the overall battlefield rehabilitation project that has drawn so much praise and criticism, depending upon one’s environmental versus historical preservation mindset).
I had a book signing earlier today at the Gettysburg Gift Center / American Civil War Museum in Gettysburg as part of the 145th Anniversary commemorations. I shared a table with author Thomas A. McGrath, a college professor who has written a book on the Battle of Shepherdstown. Civil War miniature wargamers will recognize this battle as one that appeared as a Johnny Reb 3 scenario in my book, Undying Courage: The Antietam Campaign in Miniature. Shepherdstown is among the most threatened ACW battlefields, and preservationists were recently dealt a severe blow by the West Virginia Supreme Court.
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Several descendants of Michigan Brigade soldiers and other interested persons donated money to acquire a small piece of land at Hunterstown and erect one of the country’s newest Civil War monuments. This marble slab and bronze relief is dedicated to Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer, who led the Michigan Brigade (the “Michigan Wolverines”) into action at Hunterstown against the troops of Wade Hampton III of the Confederate cavalry during the Gettysburg Campaign.