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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.
CAPT. ANDREW J. SULLIVAN/LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
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FSCWS made supervisors and planning commissioners aware of the Civil War sites in 2006, presenting a 100-page report on them and urging that they be preserved as a park with a one-lane, one-way road to provide access for visitors. Officials were asked to keep the information confidential to help save the sites, which are little known to the general public but have been dug by relic hunters since the 1950s.
Having waited two years for officials to act, FSCWS is now "impatient" to see the sites made into a park, said Glenn Trimmer, the group's director.
Trimmer said the tract is the best surviving piece of the "Valley Forge of the Civil War," the winter camps where the Union Army recovered from its defeats at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville and in the humiliating "Mud March," and gained the strength to fight again.
"You've got to remember," he said, "soldiers left these camps and went straight to Gettysburg. If they hadn't kept this army intact, and gotten it well trained and well drilled here, Gettysburg would have been a defeat."
Author and University of Richmond instructor John W. Mountcastle and Stafford historian Al Conner urged Stafford, Fredericksburg and the R-Board officials to work quickly so the public can enjoy the sites during the Civil War's 150th anniversary, which begins in 2011.
Mountcastle said the park could be a boon to regional tourism, much like two Civil War redoubts that Williamsburg saved and opened as a park last year during Jamestown's 400th anniversary.
DIGGING UP THE DETAILS
Kerry K. Schamel-Gonzalez, research supervisor with Dovetail Cultural Resource Group, described two archaeological studies the Fredericksburg firm has done of the tract for the R-Board.
Dovetail surveyed 12 sites, including four Civil War forts, two winter camps, a "corduroy" road built by Union troops, an 18th-century road trace and bridge site, two sandstone quarries, and 18th- and 19th-century home sites.
The forts were built to defend against a feared attack by Confederate cavalry, Schamel-Gonzalez said. A network of such earthworks protected the Union encampments in Stafford, home to at least 120,000 troops, and the army's bustling supply depot at Aquia Landing on the Potomac River.
Hennessy and others urged that the sites be put on the National Register of Historic Places, to attest to their importance and help preserve them.
Romanello, county Historical Commission Chairwoman Anita Dodd and others said it's imperative to do more archaeology on the whole tract to make sure officials know what historic sites--including Indian and Colonial ones--might be there.
At Romanello's suggestion, the principals agreed to form a small study group to hammer out the details of archaeology, preservation and park development.
In the meantime, Mikel warned that the historic area, which is posted, is being patrolled by the county Sheriff's Office. Trespassers will be arrested, he said.
Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029