Sunday, March 27, 2011

Easter Sunday

Today at Brandy Station: March 27, 1864 (Easter Sunday) From the letters, diaries and regimental histories that I have access to, there isn't a lot of material from the soldiers about today being Easter Sunday. Joel Molyneux (141st Pennsylvania) is the only soldier to identify the day: "Easter Sunday. Rode to Culpepper with the Capt[ain]. Gen. Hayes at Hd Qrs, and is to command the Second Brigade." Richard Owen (86th New York) was poetic: "Bright and fair with all the blessings of an infinitely good God resting upon me. O for a closer walk with thee. A heart from sin set free. A light to shine upon the road that leads me unto thee. My God my all and is all." Henry Seage (4th Michigan) mentions there was Divine Service at 11:00. But, did not go. George Perkins, (6th New York Independent Battery) went to a service: "Fair and warm. A very interesting Bible lesson this day on Mat[thew] 5th. Discourse in evening and a prayer meeting. Spoke. Cornelia Hancock, a 2nd Corps nurse on Hansbrough Ridge, concluded in a letter to her sister: "Sunday morning- our steward has returned quite drunk and things have not got straightened yet, quite. Liquor I am so down upon. They cannot get it here but he went to Washington as has not recovered himself yet. He has just been in my house, says he is all right for duty now, I hope so. My house is not swept up yet. I suppose you are about getting off to Meeting." For many, like David Wagner (107th Pennsylvania Infantry) it was a normal day in the army: "Company Inspection in the morning. Dress Parade in the evening at 4 O'Clock."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Brother's Death in the 4th Vermont Infantry

Today at Brandy Station: March 26, 1864

Portion of a letter from Lt. Charles Leach, to his wife, about the death of Charles' brother, Private William Leech (Company H, 4th Vermont), on March 24, 1864, from Typhoid Fever. The Leech's hailed from Fletcher, Vermont:

‘Thursday morning the flush had gone from his cheeks, & more death like color was on him, otherwise, he appeared about the same only weaker & the nervousness of the day before had left him. I saw him last about 11 O.C. & about 2, they sent down word that he was dead. I started as soon as possible to make arrangements to send his body home.

I learned that there was an office of embalming at Brandy Station, so I got an ambulance and were there Thursday afternoon, go a coffin to take the body in, & sent it to the station that night...I would very much like to have taken the body home, myself, but I knew there was no use to try, therefore, have done all that I can do, & hope it may reach home without any accident.

There will be some of his clothes in the box & if I had thought about it before I went to the Station, should have sent everything he had that was worth sending, as it would cost nothing, & help hold the coffin steady in the box...Thursday, the day Wm. Died, was a very pleasant day, & reminded me of a first-rate sap day in Vt., after a big snow storm. "

This letter is found in Howard Coffin's book, "The Battered Stars"

Private William Leech is buried Binghamville Cemetery, Fletcher, Vermont.

The Fourth Vermont was part of Colonel Lewis Grant's Vermont Brigade, from the Second Division of John Sedgwick's Sixth Corps.

Over 1100 Federal soliders assigned to the Army of the Potomac died in the camps. Most from disease such as Typhoid. Those who had left instructions, had money, or friends with money, were embalmed and shipped home for burial. Those not as fortunate were interred in the ground throughout the county. After the war, over 300 of these souls were removed from the ground and moved to the Culpeper National Cemetery. Many, many others remain where they were laid to rest 147 years ago.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Department of Historic Resources weighs in on Route 3

Today at Stevensburg: March 25, 2011
In today's Culpeper Star Exponent

DHR disputes VDOT's Route 3 findings

By Nate Delesline
Published: March 25, 2011

View the DHR's comments

On Thursday, another front emerged in the battle to widen Route 3 in the Stevensburg area, this time between the Department of Historic Resources and the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The DHR formally rejected an earlier VDOT report that claimed an expansion of the highway would have no adverse effects on the Brandy Station Civil War battlefield, Hansbrough’s Ridge, a Stevensburg-area hill that played a role in the war and a recently discovered, secluded natural spring.

In a letter to VDOT dated Thursday, Julie V. Langan of the DHR details the points of disagreement.

“After examining materials presented to us by VDOT and the consulting parties, listening to the views of all sides during the consulting parties meeting, driving the project corridor and studying the revised maps from the American Battlefield Protection Program, DHR must disagree with VDOT’s assessment of effect.”

The letter goes on to say that Hansbrough’s Ridge is a “dominant presence” on the area’s battlefield landscape and that VDOT should undertake efforts to minimize any adverse impacts.

“Additionally, we request that VDOT engineers explore again any possibilities to minimize the footprint of lane additions at Hansbrough’s Ridge in an effort to preserve as much of the ridgeline as possible.”

Finally, the DHR says a recently discovered historic spring, Wicked Bottom, must also be protected. A highway retention pond would take its place if the current plans were advanced.
Project in brief

At a public hearing on Wednesday, VDOT presented two options to expand a 5.1-mile, two-lane section of Route 3 between Stevensburg and Lignum to four lanes.

The first plan, estimated to cost $38.9 million, would widen the road along the existing track, with narrowed shoulders in some areas to minimize the impact to adjacent properties.

The second plan, estimated at $35 million, would construct a new highway route, bypassing Stevensburg to the north and rejoining the existing highway near Clay Hill Road. The second alignment would also cut out a section of Route 3 that’s had multiple fatal crashes in the past few years.

However, VDOT and law enforcement officials have said previously that driver error, deer strikes and inappropriate driving behaviors, not the inherent design of the two-lane road, are to blame for most of the problems.

VDOT Culpeper District spokesman Lou Hatter said the DHR’s review is part of the National Environmental Policy Act that applies to transportation projects using federal funds. Hatter also said that an adverse impact determination is common when projects impact historic resources.

“Addressing these types of questions typically takes 90 to 120 days after reviewing the public hearing comments and coordinating with DHR,” Hatter said late Thursday.

‘Zero sensitivity’

Brandy Station Foundation president Bud Hall said the DHR report vindicates everyone who championed protection of the nearby historic areas. He was also sharply critical of VDOT’s findings.

“It’s a shoddy piece of scholarship,” Hall said. “Their report showed absolute zero sensitivity. The report concluded that a four lane highway through Hansbrough’s Ridge and Stevensburg would have no adverse effect on the historic resources,” Hall said. “I thought it was ludicrous."

“The construction of a 150-foot wide highway with a 16-foot raised median in the center would effectively destroy historic landscape directly affiliated with the Stevensburg phase of the Battle of Brandy Station. DHR is to be commended and applauded for their correction of the record in this matter.”

In addition to the Brandy Station Foundation, Hall said the Germanna Foundation, Piedmont Environmental Council, the Civil War Trust and other groups went on the record to contest VDOT’s findings.

Asked what an acceptable transportation compromise would be, Hall said officials should mirror what was done in Upperville — a widened road with reduced speed limits and traffic calming elements. “Route 50 is busy if not busier and it’s a very safe model.”

Zann Nelson, a local historian and Star-Exponent columnist, also applauded Thursday’s DHR decision.

“DHR is really on top of things when the citizens come forward and raise questions,” she said. “That’s the way the system is supposed to work. If nobody questions a report, you can’t implement the checks and balances. As painful as it is, it is a system that is working properly.”

DHR went on to say the "ridge line was the most dominate and significant feature of the Stevensburg phase of the Brandy Station battle. It is also the feature with the greatest remaining historic integrity within the [Route 3] projects Area of Potential Effects."

The "GREATEST REMAINING HISTORIC INTEGRITY." In other words, Hansbrough is just about as close as it could be to the events it witnessed during the Civil War.

It should be and needs to be preserved - as is.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Battle of Route 3

Today at Stevensburg: March 22, 2011

As written in today's Culpeper Star Exponent, by Rhonda Simmons.

The battle of Route 3
By Rhonda Simmons
As the Virginia Department of Transportation prepares to move forward with widening the final section of Route 3 in southeastern Culpeper County, opposition from historic preservationists and nearby landowners is gaining momentum.

Members of the Brandy Station Foundation, Civil War Trust, Germanna Foundation and Stevensburg homeowners plan to attend Wednesday’s public hearing to share their concerns about the area’s historic significance and the possibility of homes being destroyed in the process.
The public hearing will take place Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center, 18121 Technology Drive, Culpeper.

VDOT staff will explain the process from design through construction. Plans and environmental documents will also be on hand for the public.

The project would widen 5.1 miles of Route 3, transforming the two-lane road to a four-lane divided road from Stevensburg to Lignum.

VDOT has two options: The first would construct a $38.9 million four-lane divided highway along the existing road, roughly following the current road and passing to the south of the village of Stevensburg. According to VDOT, contractors would narrow the road’s median and shoulder improvements to minimize the impact to residential property.

According to VDOT officials, the second option would start on Route 3 just east of U.S. 29, but bypass the village of Stevensburg to the north and return to the existing road just east of Route 739 (Clay Hill Road), continuing to Lignum. This option is estimated at about $35 million.
Lou Hatter, public affairs manager for VDOT’s Culpeper District, pointed to safety hazards and increasing traffic volume as reasons for widening the road.

“(It’s a) section of the roadway that has (had) issues with safety including the head-on collision crash,” Hatter explained. “Widening the road and dividing the median between traffic traveling in opposite directions would certainly be a safety improvement on that piece of road. It’s also a highway that’s handling an increasing amount of traffic.”

After a number of fatal car crashes on this curvy stretch of road in the past few years, including the deadly quadruple wreck in March 2009, VDOT officials began a safety study, which resulted in a few road improvements and new signage.

Another battle begins?
Clark “Bud” Hall, president of the Brandy Station Foundation, said the proposed Route 3 widening project would “seriously and adversely” impact the sensitive historic resources in the village of Stevensburg.

“It will eviscerate a large portion of the Stevensburg phase of the Battle of Brandy Station,” Hall said. “It will remove further a section of Hansbrough’s Ridge, a unique geographical phenomenon to Culpeper County because this 1½-mile-long ridge fronts the Rapidan River. This ridge was a defensive bulwark used in the Civil War by both sides.”

In 1991, the National Register of Historic Places added the Hansbrough Ridge Winter Encampment District to its list.

“It’s an extraordinarily valuable piece of Culpeper’s remarkable Civil War history,” Hall added.
“The Brandy Station Foundation believes that VDOT should show extraordinary sensitivity to Culpeper’s historic resources.”

Clark also offered his suggestions as an alternative to the situation.

He recommends four-laning from Lignum to east of the village of Stevensburg and preserving the current two-lane area near the historic ridge. He also favors adding safety measures such as
reducing the speed limits and putting in “traffic calming mechanisms” through the historic area.
Culpeper historian Zann Nelson (see accompanying column) concurs with Hall, noting the area’s vast historic value in addition to the immeasurable Civil War impact.

“We have been concerned over this and talking with VDOT for more than a year,” said Nelson, who began her research and involvement with the project in February 2010. “This is about the historic integrity of the entire Stevensburg area. Whether it’s the village, houses on the National Register, the Battle of Brandy Station or the 1864 Winter Encampment, it must be considered as a whole unit because each aspect is integrally related to the others.”

Marc Wheat, Germanna Foundation president, plans to speak at Wednesday’s meeting, sharing the historic significance of Salubria, a mid-18th century home built for Lady Butler Brayne Spotswood located just off the two-mile stretched of Route 3 west of Stevensburg.

“The Germanna Foundation is investing tens of thousands of dollars into preserving Salubria and restoring its terraced gardens to make it the premier tourist destination in Culpeper County,” Wheat said. “We want VDOT to complement those efforts, not detract from them.”

Longtime Stevensburg resident Jane Hitt plans to attend the public hearing, too.

“I’m against (the new road) coming through here,” said Hitt, who has lived in her home in the 19000 block of Germanna Highway (Route 3) for 45 years. “I don’t want it to come any closer than it is. It’s too close already.”

What’s next?
VDOT officials expect the Route 3 widening project to advance to the design phase this year, receiving approval for right-of-way acquisition in November.

Advertisements for bids are set for late 2013, and construction will likely begin in the spring of 2014.

VDOT will also receive written or oral statements until its April 4 deadline.

Want to go?
VDOT public hearing on the widening of Route 3
Where: Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center, Culpeper
When: Wednesday, 5 to 7 p.m.
More: For a look at the road-widening plans, visit VDOT’s Culpeper District office, 1601 Orange Road in Culpeper, or call 829-7500.

It is estimated by VDOT, that at least 150 feet of Hansbrough's ridge will be destroyed to make room for the additional lanes, drainage, right-of-way and landscaping. This is the section of the ridge where Kirtley's Rolling road (the original Route 3), a wartime road from Norman's Mill and a road the ran along the ridge intersected. All would be lost. this is also the location where Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Hampton of the 2nd South Carolina (Wade's younger brother) was mortally wounded attempting to hold back the Federal onslaught with 36 troopers.

I will be at the GCC Daniel Technology Center on Wednesday night

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Payday and rats

Today at Brandy Station: March 20, 1864

A portion of a letter from Cornelia Hancock, a nurse serving the soldiers of the Second Corps, Third Division, on Hansbough Ridge, to her sister. Originally from New Jersey, she began supporting the sick and injured after Gettysburg.

..."We have with us tonight Maj. Hutchins, paymaster for our Division. He has paid all our sick and wounded this evening. We have an extra guard on. There was a very interesting spectacle seeing the men come in to be paid hobbling along on crutches and canes; most of them received $50. Some fine looking young men-it seemed such a pittance to me, considering their wounds. They all seemed pleased, are going to bed praising Dr. F. A. Dudley for securing the paymaster to come to the hospt. He is wide awake and attend to their interest in many ways they never had before."

further in the letter

"The rats have gnawed my two hoods so they cannot be worn. I am wearing now a piece of red flannel doubled, plaited behind with black strings. It looks very fantastic and tolerably comfortable. I do not want another as I shall soon need a hat."

Hancock wrote a number of letters home of her experiences during the winter encampment. A book of her letters: Letters of a Civil War Nurse: Cornelia Hancock, 1863-1865; edited by Henrietta Statton Jaquett.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day

Today at Brandy Station 2010 & 1864

Today is International Women's Day. From Wikipedia: "International Women's Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day is marked on March 8 every year. Nowadays this is a major day of global celebration of women. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women's economic, political and social achievements. Started as a Socialist political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries, primarily Eastern Europe, Russia, and the former Soviet bloc. In many regions, the day lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother's Day and St Valentine's Day. In other regions, however, the original political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner."

Now let's go back 147 years. In his diary entry for March 8, 1864, Henry Seage of the 4th Michigan Infantry Regiment attended a Lyceum, which he was a member. A Lyceum is a hall for public lectures or discussions.

Henry wrote: "Rained all day. Made a good Table of Box got at Sutlers. Lyceum at Night. Question Resolved that Women Should have the right of Election Franchise in the U.S. the Same as Men Decided in favor of Neg. Drew Clothing 1 Socks & Shirt. More recruits came.

How ironic that the Lyceum discussed voting rights for women on what would become International Women's Day. Let us hope Henry voted in the Positive.