Cedar Mountain Battlefield is celebrating its 157th anniversary with a living history weekend Aug. 10-11.
Diane Logan, President of Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, said an initiative to name Cedar Mountain Battlefield and Brandy Station Battlefield a State Park has helped increase interest in the annual anniversary weekend of the bloodiest battle in Culpeper County during the Civil War.
“We’ve gotten a lot of attention,” Logan said. “The 10th (Virginia Infantry - a living history unit) has been doing this for about three years and when you are developing special events it takes about three years to really get the word out. We’re very excited this year because we are adding new things.”
She’s extremely excited for the planned torchlight tour the evening of Aug. 10, starting at 8 p.m.
“I describe it as an outdoor historical drama,” Logan said. “You’re kind of taken back into time and led through different vignettes and each vignette will tell a story of what happened here on the battlefield.”
During the Battle of Cedar Mountain, about 3,600 Union and Confederate troops were killed in the battle, which took place on Aug. 9, 1862. Logan said they will host a burial scene, which is always a moving experience.
“It’s so touching because people know men were killed and they know it took days to clear the battlefields, but I don’t think the story of actual battlefield burials has been told,” Logan said. “The impact of such a personal experience that you’re sharing. This is something that actually happened here on the battlefield. We have a diary that describes the burial of this young man.”
Most of the Union army killed during the battle were buried in the Culpeper National Cemetery while many of the Confederate soldiers were moved to the Fairview Cemetery.
The American Battlefield Preservation Trust has preserved almost 500 acres of the battlefield.
“I was told when I moved to Culpeper this was one of the best kept secrets in the Civil War world,” Logan said. “I think through the 150th and publications such as the Civil War Trust’s magazine we’ve got a lot more interest.”
Logan said that the battle was unique because while many think of Sherman being the first to bring the war to the civilians, it actually occurred during the Battle of Cedar Mountain. Farmers lost all their crops, their livestock and soldiers lived off the land. Logan said the most famous story is of Miss Crittenden refusing to leave her home and watching the battle from her parlor. Her house riddled with bullet holes, she watched as a cannonball came through the front door and hit a beam in the home, the deadly projectile coming to a rest at her feet.
One Union soldier returned to the Crittenden home to check on the inhabitants, finding it covered in blood as it served as a Confederate hospital.
“It was just such a horrific description of what happened,” Logan said. “I think the stories are as horrific as we read about in the larger, better known battlefields such as Gettysburg.”
The Battle of Cedar Mountain was also the scene of Stonewall Jackson pulling out his saber, still in its sheath, to rally his troops.
It also became an iconic scene due to how heavily photographed it was.
“This battlefield was one of the first to be photographed as intensely as it was,” Logan said. “It was the first time dead animals were photographed on the battlefield.”
Logan said that the push to name the battlefields a state park will have a small window of opportunity to go before the senate, but cautions it may not get there this year.
Last year the Medicare debate took up the entire focus of the senate, but Logan is hopeful that with the support of other entities the battlefields will get their moment soon.
“We have very strong support, we just have to get it in that very small window to get it approved,” Logan said. “We’re still very optimistic and we’re still planning different activities and creating opportunities for a state park beyond the reenactments.
“The state park initiative is one of the major reasons we’re seeing a lot more visitation because of people being so interested in having a state park here.”
Logan also pointed out the partnerships the battlefield group is building, mentioning the George Washington Carver School Museum. During the anniversary weekend, the museum will host a special presentation of Their Sacrifice: Our Freedom, an exhibit curated for the Carver 4-County Museum, highlights some of the more than 200 African American men from the counties of Culpeper, Rappahannock, Madison and Orange left their homes to join on the side of the Union during the Civil War.
Logan said that if residents want to help support the push for a state park the best way to do so is to volunteer.
“The more we can show the state and demonstrate rich history here in Culpeper and show them we have viable organizations that are here and want to promote that history,” Logan said.
Schedule of events:
Cedar Mountain 157th Anniversary Living History Weekend, Aug. 10 and 11. Daytime activities on August 10 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. are free and open to all ages. Visitors will be able to choose from a variety of immersive activities designed to share the stories of Civil War soldiers and civilians before, during, and after the battle. An evening torchlight tour at 8:00 pm explores battlefield happenings (students free, adults $5; fee supports battlefield preservation efforts). Battlefield location: 9465 General Winder Road in Culpeper County. Parking: George Washington Carver Center, 9433 James Madison Highway/Route 15 just south of the battlefield. Battlefield shuttle bus every 15 minutes. Event schedule: friendsofcedarmountain.org
Cedar Mountain Battlefield 157th Anniversary Living History Weekend. Activities for all ages include a variety of immersive activities designed to share the stories of Civil War soldiers and civilians before, during, and after the battle. 10 a.m.: infantry and artillery combined arms demonstration: Noon: "School of the soldier" experience that includes basic drill and instruction, learning how to fire a musket, and more. Battlefield location: 9465 General Winder Road in Culpeper County. Parking: George Washington Carver Center, 9433 James Madison Highway/Route 15 just south of the battlefield. Battlefield shuttle bus every 15 minutes. Event details: friendsofcedarmountain.org