History at Sunset

Tommy, Charlie, and the Kidd: General Wesley Merritt’s Cavalry at Cedar Creek

By 1864, the Union cavalry was superior to the Confederate cavalry for several reasons: better horses, more firepower, and aggressive, enthusiastic leadership. Cavalry division commander Gen. Wesley Merritt and his three brigade commanders were well-trained, experienced leaders who expected to win every combat action. Join Ranger Rick Ashbacker to follow Merritt’s division from the Union right flank all the way to its counterattack position on the Union left flank during the battle of Cedar Creek.

Meet at the National Park Service Visitor Contact Station (7712 Main Street, Middletown, VA 22645).

Twilight Hike

While Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park was specifically established in 2002 to preserve and interpret the area’s cultural history, the Shenandoah Valley is rich in natural features, wildlife, and vegetation, including wildflowers.These twilight hikes, offered on May 25th (6:30 p.m.) and September 28th (5:00 p.m.) will not only explore the natural side of the park, but also discuss and practice the basics of hiking and backpacking, along with the equipment usage techniques of these hobbies.

Both programs will be led by Ranger Rick Ashbacker and begin at the Claven Lane parking area (2262 Claven Lane, Middletown, Virginia), the back entrance to the park’s “Morning Attack Trails” trails system, which includes the 8th Vermont monument. Each walk will last approximately 90 minutes, over moderate terrain. Proper walking shoes and water are recommended.

African American History Program and Bell Ringing

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the landing of the first Africans in English-occupied North America (representing the beginning of 246 years of slavery in the United States), the National Park Service is inviting organizations and communities nation-wide to ring bells at 3:00 pm EDT on August 25, 2019, as part of a day of healing and reconciliation. Bells will be ringing throughout the Shenandoah Valley including a special program at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.

In 2019 and 2020, the National Park Service is commemorating a significant moment in American history; the landing of the first enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America in August 1619 at Virginia’s Point Comfort, now part of For Monroe National Monument. This symbolic gesture will enable Americans from all walks of life to participate in this historic moment from wherever they are–to capture the spirit of healing and reconciliation while honoring the significance of 400 years of African American history and culture.

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park and its partners will commemorate this special moment in history with a special ranger program at 2:30 p.m. “Kneading in Silence: A Glimpse into the Life of Judah, the Enslaved Cook.” This will immediately be followed by the bell ringing ceremony at 3:00 p.m. Bells will be rung nation-wide for four minutes—one minute for each 100 years—to honor the first Africans who landed in 1619 at Point Comfort, Virginia and the hardship and contributions of African Americans over the last 400 years.

This event is free and open to the public. Visitors interested in participating are encouraged to bring their own bells.

Please join the nation in ringing bells precisely at 3:00 pm EDT for four minutes (each minute symbolic of 100 years).

Talk on the Archaeology at Belle Grove Enslaved Quarter Site

Matthew Greer, a PhD candidate at Syracuse University will conduct a free talk about his archaeological research in the area where the enslaved men, women, and children owned by the Hite family at Belle Grove lived and worked. Since 2015, Mr. Greer has conducted archaeology of the 1.5-acre site located across Belle Grove Road from the main visitor parking lot. He has confirmed it was inhabited between about 1800 and 1850, that it likely was the home of many of the enslaved at Belle Grove, and that the site included a livestock barn and farm equipment shed. To date, more than 44,000 artifacts have been recovered at this site. The artifacts provide information on how the homes were constructed, how they were situated on the landscape, and what daily life was like for the enslaved at Belle Grove.

This program will follow a free Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park Ranger Program about Judah, one of the enslaved cooks at Belle Grove. Read more here: https://bellegrove.org/calendar/judah

Twilight Hike

While Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park was specifically established in 2002 to preserve and interpret the area’s cultural history, the Shenandoah Valley is rich in natural features, wildlife, and vegetation, including wildflowers.These twilight hikes, offered on May 25th (6:30 p.m.) and September 28th (5:00 p.m.) will not only explore the natural side of the park, but also discuss and practice the basics of hiking and backpacking, along with the equipment usage techniques of these hobbies.

Both programs will be led by Ranger Rick Ashbacker and begin at the Claven Lane parking area (2262 Claven Lane, Middletown, Virginia), the back entrance to the park’s “Morning Attack Trails” trails system, which includes the 8th Vermont monument. Each walk will last approximately 90 minutes, over moderate terrain. Proper walking shoes and water are recommended.