Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park to open new trail

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical ParkIn celebration of National Trails Day on June 4, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park is opening a series of new park trails.

The “Morning Attack Trails” consist of three individual trails, when combined total 1.7 miles in length.  The trails cover an area where part of a surprise Confederate attack during the Battle of Cedar Creek occurred on the morning of October 19, 1864.

“As a park-in-development, the Morning Attack Trails represents one of the first opportunities the National Park Service has had to offer unrestricted regular public access to large section of the battlefield,” according to Eric Campbell, the park’s chief of interpretation. “Providing new trails is an important step in the process of creating that access and interpreting one of the park’s major interpretive themes.”

The “Morning Attack Trails” consists of the following three trails, which can be hiked individually or in various combinations:

  • The 8th Vermont Monument Trail – a 300 yard trail (600 yards round-trip) to the 8th Vermont monument.
  • Thomas Brigade Loop Trail – a 0.6 mile long trail that focuses on the stand of Col. Stephen Thomas’s brigade.
  • Hayes-Ramseur Loop Trail – a 0.7 mile long trail that explores the attack of Stephen D. Ramseur’s Confederates on the Union forces of Rutherford B. Hayes and Howard Kitching.

The 8th Vermont monument, one of only three veteran placed monuments on the battlefield, commemorates one of the most famous incidents related to battle.  Belonging to Col. Stephen Thomas’s brigade of approximately 1,000 men, the regiment sacrificed itself against a Confederate onslaught four times its size.  Nearly twenty years later, a simple monument was erected to honor the sacrifices of the regiment.

The Thomas Brigade Loop Trail, and the Hayes-Ramseur Loop Trail, cover the area where additional Confederate attacks that morning overran other parts of the Union defenses, including troops commanded by Col. (and future President) Rutherford B. Hayes.  All of the trails are located on land owned by the National Park Service.  A free 8-page trail brochure is available on site, or at the National Park Service Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main Street, Middletown).  The brochure narrative corresponds to the numbered stops that are marked on the trails.

Visitors are encouraged to hike these trails to order to learn about the critical history which occurred on the property, or simply for recreation and leisure.  Pets are allowed, but must remain on a lease at all times.  The main trail head is located along U.S. Route 11, south of Middletown.  The site (8739 Valley Pike, Middletown) is located immediately adjacent to the National Park Service Headquarters, and is marked by signage that reads “8th Vermont Monument.”  Future plans include additional signage and a larger visitor parking lot.

Upcoming National Park Service ranger programs and events are planned which will highlight these trails and the various stories that occurred on the property.  These include a “History at Sunset” program on June 10 and a special “Vermont at Cedar Creek Weekend” fromJune 24-26.  For additional information on these programs, along with other ranger-conducted presentations offered regularly by the park, see (www.nps.gov/cebe) or by call: (540) 869-3051.

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