Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park will offer a series of special National Park Service ranger programs this month to highlight stories related to the history of the Shenandoah Valley.
“These programs will give visitors a chance to explore important events of the valley,” said Eric Campbell, the park’s chief of interpretation. “We will cover a variety of subjects, including critical moments of the Battle of Cedar Creek, the post-Civil War struggles of the valley, an examination of the plantation complex at Belle Grove and modern archeological studies in the valley.”
These special presentations include both the popular “History at Sunset” programs and also the new “Battlefield Series” programs. All are free and are 90 minutes to two hours long.
July 10 — History at Sunset: Not Just Black and White: Exploring the Complexities of Emancipation in the Post-war Shenandoah Valley (7 p.m.): “The unending tragedy of Reconstruction is the utter inability of the American mind to grasp its real significance, its national and world-wide implications . . . .” This program will begin to explore how Reconstruction affected both black and white civilians of the Shenandoah Valley; focusing on the daily struggles of everyday life to the political impacts for all in this region. This program will take place at the Thorndale Farm, an example of a typical small family farm that dotted the valley landscape. Join Ranger Shannon Moeck for this stationary program at 652 N. Buckton Rd., Middletown. Visitors are encouraged to bring a lawn chair.
July 11 — Battlefield Series: “All that Remains”: Battlefield archeological vignettes of a landscape littered with the detritus of war at Cedar Creek (2 p.m.). Join park volunteer Marcus Lemasters as he explains archeological techniques and practices, how those have been applied to various locations on the Cedar Creek battlefield and what has been learned. Meet at the Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main St., Middletown) for an overview. Visitors will then car caravan to different locations on the battlefield, with Lemasters, state-certified archeological technician and a member of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Chapter of the Archeological Society of Virginia.
July 18 — Battlefield Series: “An Appalling Spectacle of Panic,” the Collapse of the Army of the Shenandoah (2 p.m.): The amazingly successful Confederate surprise attack on the morning of Oct. 19, 1864 at Cedar Creek caused the near-total collapse of the Union Army of the Shenandoah. Park volunteer Guy Young examines this attack through the perspective of the three Union corps who bore the brunt of the Southern assault. Meet at the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation Headquarters (8437 Valley Pike, Middletown) for a car caravan presentation at different locations on the battlefield.
July 24 — History at Sunset: Looking Beyond the Big House: The Belle Grove Plantation Complex (7 p.m.): Belle Grove Plantation was a prominent landscape feature of the northern Shenandoah Valley. Numerous mills dotted the fertile floodplains of Cedar Creek. Slaves worked the massive fields harvesting wheat and other crops. Join Ranger Kyle Rothemich as he takes visitors “behind the big house” and explores the complexities of the Belle Grove Plantation environment. Meet at the front lawn of Belle Grove (336 Belle Grove Road, Middletown). Moderate walking will be required.
* July 25 — Battlefield Series: “The fog was so dense . . .” The Stand of the 19th Corps Along the Valley Pike (2 p.m.) In the early morning hours of Oct. 19, 1864, after the Confederates had swept aside the Union 8th Corps, Gen. William Emory, commanding the 19th Corps, patched together a mixed force along the Valley Pike, in an attempt to slow the Southern advance. Despite their best efforts, those Union forces were only marginally successful, and within a short time, after taking heavy casualties, were forced to withdraw. Join Ranger Jeff Driscoll has he examines this critical action. Meet at the 8th Vermont Monument site (8739 Valley Pike, Middletown). Moderate walking will be involved.
For details and updates, call 540-869-3051 or visit nps.gov/cebe.