Save Saturday 2 April on your calendars! Why you ask? It's the date for the Civil War Trust's annual "Park Day" event, of course.
Preserving a battlefield or historic site often requires more time and manpower than the staff of that particular venue can provide. So the call for volunteers to tackle some of the larger projects goes out via the Civil War Trust.
I coordinated this event for a couple of years at New Market Battlefield State Historical Park (I know, shock and surprise at the venue, right?). During the years I was involved with the program at NMBSHP, we fielded several dozen volunteers each year (including a collasal showing from my alma mater Bridgewater College one year) and constructed several hundred feet of split-rail fence, painted the fence around the Bushong farm, hauled away a post-war barn that had collapsed, and cut back foilage to restore some areas of the battlefield to their 1864 appearance. Most of these projects would have taken the park staff days, or even weeks, to complete. With the support of the community and volunteers, these tasks were done in a matter of hours.
This year I'll be going across the River James to Newport News Park - site of the only real engagement during George McClellan's month-long siege of Yorktown during the opening of the Peninsula Campaign. Winfield Scott Hancock found what was probably the only weak spot in Prince John Magruder's defensive line from Yorktown to Mulberry Island, and on 16 April a brigade of Vermonters was thrown across the Warwick River at this weakspot. Unfortunately for them, McClellan had no real goal or objective in doing so, and leadership at the tactical level was equally flawed. In the end, about 300 men combined from both sides became casualties in a rather pointless engagement.
Even though the Warwick River has been dammed up further to become the Newport News Reservoir, putting the original Dam #1 and part of the battlefield underwater, much of the Confederate earthworks remain in excellent condition.
I'll post an after-action report of Park Day 2011.
What's going on with Valley Thunder?
Here is where you can stay most up-to-date with the publication of Charles Knight's Valley Thunder: The Battle of New Market, including the latest info on its release, up-coming appearances by the author, latest reviews, more in-depth looks at various aspects of the battle and anything else that comes to mind.