LURAY, Va.— During its Annual Meeting at the Mimslyn Inn in Luray on Saturday, January 20, 2018, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation announced a new preservation victory – the preservation of 158 acres on the Cedar Creek battlefield.
The 158 acre parcel, which lies in Warren County, was part of the Confederate attack on the morning of the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864. Confederate General John B. Gordon’s troops swarmed over this property under the cover of darkness as they began their surprise assault on the unsuspecting Federal lines.
The preservation was made possible by the generosity of landowner Tunstall C. “Joe” Powers, Jr. and his wife Linda E. Powers, who donated the conservation easement on their property.
“Our family welcomes this opportunity to partner with Warren County and the Battlefields Foundation in order to preserve the historic and scenic values of our farm,” Mr. Powers said. “My father grew up in Strasburg and was aware of the fords on the property and their role in the Confederate’s early morning advance at Cedar Creek. My mother enjoyed the vistas of Signal Knob and the variety of wildlife that inhabit the farm. We believe that a conservation easement can insure the enjoyment of this property by future generations.”
Since 2000, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation has preserved 871 acres on the Cedar Creek battlefield, more than any other preservation organization. The SVBF also holds an additional 65 acres that was originally preserved by the Civil War Trust and given to the SVBF in 2015; in all, the SVBF manages 936 acres of the Cedar Creek battlefield.
“The Powers family has already helped to preserve hundreds of acres of the Cedar Creek battlefield,” said SVBF CEO Keven M. Walker, “And this act of extreme generosity forever ensures their legacy as one of the most instrumental families for battlefield preservation the Valley has ever known.
The preserved 158-acre property was part of the very beginning of the Battle of Cedar Creek; it was across this land that Confederates under Gen. Joseph Kershaw and Gen. John. B. Gordon launched their daring pre-dawn assault on the morning of October 19, 1864, the first blow in Confederate commander Gen Jubal A. Early’s brilliant surprise attack. Kershaw and Gordon’s men swarmed out of the fog to crash into Union Col. Joseph Thoburn’s division (part of the Union Army of West Virginia, aka the VIII Corps). While Thoburn’s position was “crowned with a formidable line of entrenchments,” it was isolated from the other Union defenses, and his men were overwhelmed by the southerners (including Gen. William T. Wofford’s brigade of Georgians), beginning the domino-like collapse of the VIII Corps.
Despite the stunning success of the Confederate attack that morning, the Federals would counterattack in the afternoon and turn the day into a crushing Union victory. Cedar Creek was the final battle of Union Gen. Philip Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Campaign, climaxing a series of victories that gave Union forces permanent control of the Valley and helped ensure Abraham Lincoln’s reelection that November.
“The Battlefields Foundation is also grateful for the partnership of the Warren County Board of Supervisors and staff in this preservation effort” SVBF Conservation Director John Hutchinson said. “The county co-holds the easement and shares responsibility with the Foundation for seeing that the property is protected in perpetuity.”
“And this property is important not just for its historical value, but also for how it affects the surrounding battlefield,” added Walker. “Keeping this land undeveloped is critical for protecting the viewshed and the historic integrity of surrounding property that has already been preserved.”
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