Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park announces special ‘History at Sunset’ programs

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical ParkCedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park has announced a series of special “History at Sunset” programs.

These ranger-conducted presentations cover a variety of subjects and provide visitors an opportunity to see sites normally not open, or widely accessible, to the general public. “The history of the Shenandoah Valley is rich and fascinating,” according to Lead Ranger Eric Campbell, “These programs offer an opportunity to learn some of its many stories in a more detailed fashion.” Explore and learn about some of the “hidden gems” of the park and the Shenandoah Valley. Each program is free and lasts between 90 minutes to two hours.

Flank to Flank: Hiking in the Footsteps of Soldiers While Exploring the Terrain of the Third Winchester Battlefield

June 14, 6:30 p.m.

Besides being excellent places to experience history, many Civil War battlefields are also great places for hiking. With more than five miles of well-maintained trail over rolling terrain and through woodlots, the Third Winchester battlefield is one of the best. Join Ranger Rick Ashbacker to not only hike most of the battlefield, but also discuss key events, locations, and natural features on the site of the largest battle in the Shenandoah Valley. Meet at the parking lot for the Third Winchester Battlefield Visitor Center (541 Redbud Road, Winchester, VA 22603) This activity is recommended primarily for visitors who are comfortable hiking at least 3-4 miles at a moderate pace.

Briscoe Brothers and Beyond: Historic Images of the Cedar Creek Battlefield

June 28, 7:00 p.m.

Join Historian Kyle Rothemich as he examines historic images of the Cedar Creek battlefield. The first known photographs were taken by the Biscoe Brothers in the 1880s, which can be used to compare and contrast the 19th century landscape to today. Learn about these travelers and veterans who returned decades later through the images they captured. This will be a car caravan tour through the park as the program will take visitors to the spots where these images were captured. Moderate walking will be required. Meet at the Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main Street, Middletown VA 22645).

“This Valley…was [a] scene of desolation and ruin.” The Burning of the Shenandoah Valley

July 12, 7:00 p.m.

Considered one of the most infamous episodes of the entire war, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan’s systematic destruction of the Valley has been understudied and therefore misunderstood. This program provides an overview of the major events of “The Burning” itself, places it within the larger context of the entire Union war effort, visits one of the local sites associated with this incident and most importantly examines the military, political and personal impacts of “The Burning” on the local populace. Meet Ranger Eric Campbell at the National Park Service Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main Street, Middletown, VA 22645).

Middletown Civil War Walking Tour

July 26, 7:00 p.m.

Join Ranger Shannon Moeck on this 90 minute walking tour of historic Middletown. Through the war years, Middletown found itself caught between the lines of opposing armies. The town’s population of approximately 440 residents, including a small free black population of 19, experienced much of the war as a border community. This tour will discuss firsthand accounts of the residents who were greatly impacted by the seemingly endless conflict. Meet at the corner of 1st and Main Streets in Middletown, VA 22645.

“A great deal of labor was…expended in building breastworks….” Exploring the Civil War Entrenchments at Cedar Creek

August 2, 7:00 p.m.

Some of the most well preserved original Civil War entrenchments in the Shenandoah Valley are located on the bluffs above Cedar Creek. Join Park Ranger Jeff Driscoll for a special walking tour that explores both the construction of these field fortifications and their role during the Battle of Cedar Creek. Preserved by the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation and Belle Grove, these earthworks are the focal point of a newly expanded walking trail in the park. Meet at the Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main Street, Middletown, VA 22645). Visitors will then car-pool to another site closer to the entrenchments.

Free at Last: The Complicated Road to Freedom for Emmanuel Jackson

August 16, 6:00 p.m.

This program will explore how one enslaved man, Emmanuel Jackson, Jr., from Belle Grove Plantation was purchased by his free black father, Emmanuel Jackson, Sr. from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and ultimately freed four years later. Join Ranger Shannon Moeck for this stationary program at Belle Grove (336 Belle Grove Road, Middletown, VA 22645).

“…one of the most fearful struggles of the war.” The Valiant Stand of the 8th Vermont Infantry and Thomas’s Brigade

September 6, 6:00 p.m.

In order to give his Union 19th Corps time to form, Gen. William Emory ordered Stephen Thomas’s small brigade across the Valley Pike to delay the Confederate assault. Thomas’s four regiments rose to the occasion…but they paid a heavy price. On this special walk led by Park Ranger Jeff Driscoll, participants will be given photographs of 8th Vermont members who were there and thus learn their fates. Meet at Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main Street, Middletown, VA 22645).

Legends and Leadership: Colonel John S. Mosby and his Partisan Rangers in the Shenandoah Valley

September 20, 5:00 p.m.

One of the most notorious bands of Confederate irregular soldiers was led by the resourceful Colonel John Singleton Mosby. These horsemen prowled northern Virginia, attacking, harassing, and capturing Union forces from Washington, D.C., to the Shenandoah Valley. Join Ranger Rick Ashbacker to seek the truth behind the Mosby legend, and see several of the Shenandoah Valley locations where Mosby and his rangers fought. Meet at the Chet Hobert Park (225 Al Smith Circle, Berryville, VA 22611).

“…there burst upon our view the appalling spectacle of a panic-stricken army…” The William Dinges Farm (Rienzi Knoll) at Cedar Creek

October 4, 5:00 p.m.

Known variously as the William H. Dinges Farm, Ripple Farm or Rienzi Knoll, this historic property witnessed one of the most dramatic episodes of the Battle of Cedar Creek (October 19, 1864); the arrival of Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan following his non-stop ride from Winchester. Finding his army broken and demoralized, Sheridan rallied his troops and launched a devastating counterattack that afternoon which “snatched victory from the jaws of defeat,” turning Cedar Creek into a stunning Union triumph. Join Park Ranger Jeff Driscoll for a special program that will allow the general public access to this property and explore its Battle of Cedar Creek history, Meet at the National Park Service Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main Street, Middletown, VA 22645). Visitors will then car-pool to the site.

Tommy, Charlie, and the Kidd: General Wesley Merritt’s Cavalry at Cedar Creek

October 18, 4:00 p.m.

By 1864, the Union cavalry was superior to the Confederate cavalry for several reasons: better horses, more firepower, and aggressive, enthusiastic leadership. Cavalry division commander Gen. Wesley Merritt and his three brigade commanders were well-trained, experienced leaders who expected to win every combat action. Join Ranger Rick Ashbacker to follow Merritt’s division from the Union right flank all the way to its counterattack position on the Union left flank during the battle of Cedar Creek. Meet at the National Park Service Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main Street, Middletown, VA 22645).

Life in the Borderland: The Limits and Possibilities of Freedom for Enslaved and Free Blacks

November 10, 5:00 p.m.

What did Shenandoah Valley enslaved have to do to earn their freedom? How did free blacks in the area circumnavigate laws which required them to leave the state within a year of acquiring their freedom? Why did some choose to stay in a land where Virginia laws and social codes created racial restrictions that severely limited their freedoms, while others chose to find new lives in an unknown land? These are some of the questions that will be explored during this special History at Sunset program. This will be the final presentation during our special event – Inalienable Rights: Free & Enslaved Blacks Crafting A Life In The Shenandoah Valley. Meet at Belle Grove (336 Belle Grove Road, Middletown, VA 22645).

For more information, check the park website (www.nps.gov/cebe) or call (540) 869-3051.



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