Key Third Winchester Site Saved
Third Winchester, the bloodiest battle to take place in the Shenandoah Valley, will likely draw more visitors than ever now that a larger portion of the battlefield is being preserved. Last November the Civil War Preservation Trust, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation and Virginia Land Conservation Foundation jointly purchased the 209-acre Huntsberry Farm, where the battle—also known as Opequon, after the nearby creek—swirled around the house, barns, fields and woods. Purchased for $3.4 million, the farm fills a gap between two other parcels already protected by the CWPT and the SVBF, creating a 575-acre expanse of battlefield.
On September 19, 1864, Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan marched his troops from Berryville toward Winchester, confronting Lt. Gen. Jubal Early’s Confederates in August Huntsberry’s hayfields. In all, more than 54,000 men were involved in that day’s fighting, which ended in a Confederate retreat to Winchester, amid fighting in the streets.
Leading a recent tour of the farm, where an estimated 3,000 men were killed or wounded, historian Gary Adelman said, “I have no doubt there are still bodies buried here.” The two-story house survived the battle but has since been destroyed by relic hunters. Winchester resident Bob Huntsberry was one of 11 heirs who signed the contract to sell the land. For him, the farm meant childhood memories of running in the fields and exploring the woods. But remembering his grandmother’s house, where he had slept on an upper floor, his face hardened and he said: “It was standing just 25 years ago. Relic hunters tore it apart—they pulled it down board by board.”
Unable to protect the buildings, the family decided after much discussion and debate that it was better to preserve the land than develop it.
Nathan B. Forrest Wins Another Fight
When a new public high school opened in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1959, it was named after Nathan Bedford Forrest at the suggestion of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. At the time, the facility was an all-white school. Fast forward five decades: These days the majority of students at Forrest High are African Americans. About two years ago a movement began to change the name because of Forrest’s link with the Confederacy, as well as his controversial connection with the Ku Klux Klan. But when the issue finally came up for a vote before the Duval County School Board last November, the board voted 5-2 to keep the original name.
A Happy Ending for Priceless Lincolnalia
The $20 million collection of Abraham Lincoln artifacts and documents be – long ing to the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Ind., which closed its doors last summer after 77 years, will be divided between two venues: the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis and Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels pledged that the collection would have “the most exquisite care and the widest possible public availability.” The Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., had also applied to house the collection.
The Lincoln Museum’s holdings, considered the world’s largest private collection from Lincoln’s personal and presidential life, includes a signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, an inkwell used by Lincoln when he signed that document, 18,000 rare books, 5,000 photographs and much more.
Brighter Days for the U.S. Grant Papers
It required a lawsuit to remove Ulysses Grant’s personal and professional papers from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. With the dust from that settled, the collection has a new home at Mississippi State University.
For more than 40 years, John Y. Simon—a respected Civil War scholar and professor, as well as the executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association—maintained his office at Southern Illinois, where he edited 30 volumes of The Papers of U.S. Grant.
Although the papers actually belong to the Ulysses S. Grant Association, they had been housed at SIU. Simon, who died in July 2008 at age 75, had been involved in a lengthy dispute with the university that began when he found himself locked out of his office last January, after two co-workers alleged he sexually harassed them.
The association board elected John Marszalek of Mississippi State Uni – versity as the new executive director and severed its connections with SIU. Marszalek, who spent 29 years as a history professor at MSU before retiring in 2002, promptly opened an office for the association at that university’s Mitchell Memorial Library in Starkville, but then had to wait for a decision on ownership of the Grant papers. The university and the association finally reached an agreement on December 12. Within days, moving trucks arrived at Marszalek’s office to deliver the valuable documents.
Marszalek explained that he expects to publish the last volume of the Grant’s Papers series. Because work on the project fell behind schedule in 2008, however, several important grants were not renewed. Marszalek is currently applying for new grants so the work can continue.
‘Chick-Chat’ NMP Seeks Your Input
Since the last general management plan was created in 1988 for Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, significant changes have taken place at the site nicknamed “ChickChat,” including the addition of new land on Lookout Mountain and Moccasin Bend, as well as rerouting U.S Highway 27 outside park boundaries. Park authorities are now planning to host a series of public meetings to establish a new plan that will guide the park for the next 20 years.
Meetings are tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, March 10, 4 to 8 p.m., at the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center, 3370 Lafayette Road, Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.; and Thursday, March 12, 4 to 8 p.m., at the Walker Pavilion, Coolidge Park, 150 River Street, Chattanooga, Tenn. Visit the NPS park planning Web site at http://parkplanning.nps. gov/chch for up dates on the meeting schedule. If you would like to submit input to the planners but cannot attend either of the meetings, you can submit comments via the Web site.
Museum of the Confederacy Breaks Ranks
The Museum of the Confederacy plans to open the first of its anticipated three satellite museums at Appomattox, Va., following the town’s move to purchase a four-acre site for the project close to the national park at Appomattox Court House. The other proposed sites are at Fort Monroe near Norfolk and in Fredericksburg.
The original museum as well as the Confederate White House remain open in downtown Richmond, but dense development around those two properties has made access increasingly difficult for visitors. Satellite locations are a way for the museum to remain viable, according to S. Waite Rawls III, museum president and CEO. He said an architect and exhibit designer have been hired for the 10,000-square-foot building in Appomattox, which is scheduled to open in April 2011 at a cost between $6 and $7 million. Rawls did not comment on how much of that money has already been raised.
Pamplin Historical Park Hit By Recession
In response to budget cuts, Pamplin Historical Park curtailed its hours beginning January 2. Park President A. Wilson Greene announced the schedule changes, pointing out that “The severe economic downturn has undercut the ability of the foundation to support the park at current levels.”
Founded in 1994 by the R.B. Pamplin Corporation of Portland, Ore., the 422-acre Petersburg park, which currently receives no government funding, is run by the corporation’s philanthropic arm, the Pamplin Foundation. The corporation has diverse holdings, including textile mills, sand and gravel mines, concrete and asphalt companies and Christian bookstores.
Greene explained that all the facilities will still be maintained, and the park can open on 48-hour notice with reservations by an individual or group of 10 or less, willing to pay a $100 entrance fee. Greene added that any time the park is open by reservation, the gate is also open to any visitor who happens to stop by. The admission fee has been reduced from $15 to $10 for adults and from $7.50 to $5 for children. The park will honor all reservations already made for 2009—for example, for the 30,000 schoolchildren who will be participating in educational tours during that period. Existing reservations for banquets and parties will also be honored, and all summer programs, including a popular day camp, will go on as scheduled. One notable casualty of the budget cuts is the park’s restaurant.
The reduced schedule came at a time when the park had actually been doing well in terms of visitors. “We have maintained steady or increasing visitation and revenues since 1995, even this year, when many historic sites have experienced significant declines in attendance and revenues,” Greene noted. Once the Pamplin Foundation’s financial situation improves, he says, regular operations will likely be restored. Echoing Mark Twain, Greene remarked, “The rumor of our demise has been greatly exaggerated.”
Originally published in the April 2009 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.