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Park proposed for Civil War's 'Valley Forge'
Support building for public park to preserve Civil War 'Valley Forge' sites in central Stafford

 A Union blockhouse (left) like one found near Accokeek Creek defends Stafford's Potomac Creek railroad bridge.
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Date published: 3/26/2008


Central Stafford County needs a public park, historians and preservationists say, but not of the usual kind.

This one, set atop ridges overlooking Accokeek Creek, would feature the most significant remaining set of unprotected Civil War forts and camps in the northern part of Virginia.

That's what they recommended yesterday to area officials meeting at the University of Mary Washington's graduate-studies center in Hartwood.

County Administrator Anthony Romanello convened the ad-hoc group, which included Stafford supervisors, archaeologists, historians, planners, private citizens, and officials from the public utility that runs the regional landfill where the historic sites are located.

To protect the sites as the landfill grows, the R-Board--or Rappahannock Regional Solid Waste Management Board--intends to preserve 14 to 20 acres of the 760-acre facility.

"The important thing is to convey this land unimpaired for our children--that's the first priority," said John Hennessy, chief historian of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. "The R-Board has done a great thing by setting this property aside."

In January, R-Board members voted unanimously to reshape an 80-acre landfill expansion, giving up 3 to 5 acres, to preserve one of the forts, R-Board Superintendent Andrew J. Mikel said. The other forts and winter camps sit on land nearer the creek, where environmental rules preclude landfill development.

Many participants in yesterday's meeting favored creating a park on the property so the public can see and appreciate the Civil War and 18th-century sites, which include four Union Army forts and two camps where soldiers spent the winter of 1862-63. Supervisor Paul Milde, whose Aquia District includes the tract, strongly supports the park concept.

quick action urged

The idea was first proposed two years ago by Friends of Stafford Civil War Sites, a private group that has worked with builders and county officials to protect and memorialize other Union sites in eastern Stafford.

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The proposed park tract in central Stafford features 12 archaeological sites, including: FORT 1: This two-faced, 248-foot-long Union Army battery has two gun platforms that may have held 3-inch ordnance rifles or 12-pound Napoleons. At its center is a square, 9-foot-deep supply pit or blockhouse. The fort area includes a zigzag trench and rifle pits.

FORT 2: This three-faced, 210-foot-long battery would have had four or five cannon.

FORT 3: This three-faced battery, which may have held six guns, included a heavily built blockhouse with below-ground storage for powder and shell.

FORT 4: Originally about 200 feet long, this earthwork has been damaged by logging.

WINTER CAMPS: A picket post and two dug-in winter camps, which had log shelters with fireplaces for the soldiers, neighbor the forts. One camp has what is believed to be an officers' quarters made of sandstone.

CORDUROY ROAD: Part of the area's wartime road network included a corduroy road built of logs so the Army of the Potomac could move wagons and heavy guns through boggy areas. Part of one such road, built of pine logs, is perfectly preserved in one swampy site.

BRIDGE ABUTMENTS: Sandstone abutments survive from a bridge that crossed a creek for a well-preserved 18th-century road that was a major route for the Union Army's 11th Corps.

QUARRIES: Two late 18th-century sandstone quarries, one of which appears to have later become a mill, speak to Stafford's role as a provider of building stone. Cut stone was put on skids and pulled by oxen or horse, or loaded onto shallow scows and taken downstream on Accokeek Creek. (The quarry at Government Island, on Aquia Creek, provided sandstone for the White House and the U.S. Capitol.)

--from reports by Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and the Friends of Stafford Civil War Sites