Cedar Creek Foundation Looks Forward To 145th
By Craig L Barry
(October 2009 Civil War News)
MIDDLETOWN, Va. — Time has a way of mollifying things. At least, Suzanne Chilson hopes they do. Chilson, who has been Executive Director of Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation (CCBF) since 1996, says she has “never seen a year last one,” meaning 2008.
Oh, let’s not forget Chilson’s first event as Executive Director in 1996 when the Virginia monsoon season arrived later than normal and Noah’s Ark was almost reenacted instead of the Battle of Cedar Creek.
Last year, however, was a different kind of storm, though no less intense. As was widely reported, Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation had applied for and received the Preservation Virginia (formerly APVA) designation for its property as one of the top 10 most endangered historic sites in America.
Then in late April 2008, an agreement reached between CCBF and the Belgian mining company Carmeuse over rezoning of property adjacent to both Belle Grove Plantation and Cedar Creek Battlefield sparked a backlash against CCBF both in the historical reenactment community as well as the media.
The settlement also caused a rift with Belle Grove Plantation, with whom CCBF had partnered in presenting the annual mid-October Battle of Cedar Creek Civil War reenactments.
Belle Grove decided to do a separate living history for a separate admission. By all accounts the 2008 Belle Grove living history event was not well attended. Despite some grumbling on the Internet forums about a boycott of the reenactment, the 2008 Cedar Creek battle drew close to 4,000 participants.
This was a very respectable turnout at Cedar Creek for a non-five year anniversary event. The number of spectators was apparently not greatly affected by the controversy either, and admission tickets remained steady at around 5,000 sold.
The bickering on the Internet forums continued for a few more months before finally losing steam as more of the facts emerged in the print media about what was lost (nothing) vs. what was gained.
The 145th Anniversary Battle of Cedar Creek is right around the corner, on Oct. 17 and 18. The pre-registered number of participants is close to 6,000 or about 50 percent more than attended last year. If so, walk-ons will be necessarily limited and very few will be permitted to participate, so plan accordingly if you are going to attend in 2009.
According to Chilson, after several years of trying various battle scenarios, for the 145th anniversary, “Cedar Creek is returning to their time-honored tradition of the C.S. driving the Union out of their camps on Saturday, and the Federal counter-attack on Sunday.”
There also appears to be some thawing of the relationship with next-door neighbor Belle Grove Plantation. While Cedar Creek is not using any of the Belle Grove property (which prior to 2008 was rented by CCBF for $5,000), the reenactment and Belle Grove living history program will be offered as a combination as well as separate tickets.
Adults can get two-day tickets for both venues for $25, the reenactment for $20 or Belle Grove for $10. for additional detail check www.cedarcreekbattlefield.org
The CCBF Preservation Raffles are also running well ahead of last year for ticket sales. Chilson said, “The de-farbed P53 Enfield musket and signed copy of The Civil War Musket is creating a lot of interest. Ticket sales are running well ahead of 2008.”
She said, “Last year’s musket raffle was a great story as a descendant of a soldier who fought here won the musket.”
So, after 20 years the Battle of Cedar Creek is not only still around, but bigger than ever. The battle continues its tradition as the last major event on the Eastern Theater reenactment schedule, and CCBF continues its role of putting on successful events to raise funds for battlefield preservation.
Perhaps things have finally returned to normal in Middletown, Va.?