Culpeper Battlefields State Park won’t be opening for a while, but that’s not stopping its supporters from sprucing up some of its historic sites.
Four entities recently collaborated to update and add roadside markers at Culpeper County’s Cedar Mountain battlefield, where Confederate troops put down a Union attempt to seize the Gordonsville’s strategic rail junction in 1862.
Officials from the American Battlefield Trust, Civil War Trails Inc. and Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield installed the pictured markers as overcast skies sprinkled with rain on June 27.
The nonprofit National Trust, which owns the preserved portion of the battlefield, and the City of Culpeper’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism shared the cost of the 13 markers.
“We are very pleased that the interpretive panels will be installed in time for the 160th anniversary of the battle,” said Daniel Davis, the trust’s senior education officer, on Thursday. “The signage will enhance the experience of visitors to the battlefield and provide a better understanding of what happened on this hallowed ground.”
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“It’s amazing to see the Battlefields functioning both as an ‘open-air museum’ and as places where visitors can hike or do a digital detox,” said Drew Gruber, director executive of Civil War Trails. “Watching families and friends create their own stories on sites like these makes our work truly rewarding.”
Partners installed 12 interpretive markers at the Battle of Cedar Mountain as well as a sign describing the work of the American Battlefield Trust, which preserves sites related to battles of the American Revolution, War of 1812 and civil war.
“As with most preservation work, the fabrication and installation of these signs was a true team effort,” said Jim Campi, director of policy and communications for the trust. “Civil War Trails fabricated and designed the panels, historian Mike Block wrote the initial text, with the American Battlefield Trust team further refining the content and maps.”
All historical roadsides include maps, quotes from battle participants, and photos relating to various parts of the savage battle of August 9, 1862, in which Confederate Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson fired his sword (in fact, his rusty sword scabbard) for the only time.
“The new signs build on existing stories told at Cedar Mountain, enhancing the overall visitor experience,” said Paige Read, Culpeper’s Director of Economic Development and Tourism.
Mike Block, a Friends of Cedar Mountain volunteer, thanked Davis, Read, Gruber and Chris Brown, deputy director of the multi-state trail group, for making the project happen.
“It is this partnership and support that has made the new roadside possible,” he said.
The marker project is part of an overall effort by the American Battlefield Trust, working with local partners, to improve interpretation at the Culpeper’s Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain battlefields, Campi said.
The partners started with Cedar Mountain in June, so the new panels were installed in time for the 160th anniversary of the battle next month.
“Next, we will focus on replacing the signage at St. James’s Church and Buford’s Knoll in time for Brandy Station’s 160th anniversary next year,” Campi said.
The new markers will also help guide the influx of new visitors expected with the announcement of the new state park, which will officially open on July 1, 2024, he said.
And soon, signs will be erected in Culpeper informing visitors of the new state park, Campi said.
At Cedar Mountain, seven of the new markers replace signage that has served visitors from around the world for more than a decade, Block said. They offer more engaging text and images “to help fuel the imagination of visitors as they stand where historical events unfolded on the battlefield,” he said.
Each roadside has a map that reflects the terrain of 1862 and the locations of contending armies on different parts of the terrain.
The partners placed four panels covering new material allowing visitors to understand the fighting on parts of the battlefield that had gone uninterpreted, Block said.
Two depict fighting in the woods on and behind The Point, and another above Brushy Field.
A third panel near the Crittenden Gate, perhaps the best-known part of the field and the place where visitors now enter it, provides insight into the battle.
Finally, a new roadside discusses KOCOA, a military acronym that stands for Key Terrain, Observation Points and Fields of Fire, Cover and Concealment, Obstacles and Avenues of Approach/Retreat.
As used by the U.S. Armed Forces and the National Park Service’s U.S. Battlefield Protection Program, KOCOA is the process experts use to study military terrain and classify cultural landscape features of battlefields and battlefields. historical sites related to the battle.
“Now a visitor to Cedar Mountain can study and understand the battlefield as a modern fighter,” Block said.
As signage indicates, Cedar Mountain Battlefield is part of the Civil War Trails Inc. system. Each CWT site is networked with more than 1,400 others in six states, including Virginia, Tennessee, Carolina North, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
CWT sites are marketed internationally by state tourist boards, destination marketing organizations and municipal partners.
The popular program, which provides a smartphone app, website and free maps to travelers, helps spur economic development by promoting heritage travel.
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