Perhaps you’re a casual student of the Civil War interested in following Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign. Or your family is visiting a certain part of the Shenandoah Valley and you are interested in exploring a battlefield in the area. Or maybe you just want to get a quick understanding of the region’s Civil War history.
A new guide, released this week by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, is designed to do all of this. The visitors guide to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District is a free 48-page, full-color booklet that provides an overview of the Valley’s Civil War history and information about how to explore that history at Civil War sites throughout the region.
“The Valley’s Civil War history is fairly complex,” said Howard Kittell, the Battlefields Foundation’s Executive Director. “It includes a number of military campaigns, more than a dozen full-scale battles and countless engagements, and a variety of participants, from commanders and soldiers on the field on both sides to the Valley’s residents who struggled to keep their families and livelihoods together while war raged all around them. This guide untangles the twisted threads of those stories and weaves them together in a way that helps the reader understand what happened here. It then helps them find the sites that tell that story today. In addition, having residents and visitors becoming more engaged in the battlefields and other historic sites will lead to a stronger sense of stewardship of these nationally important historic resources.”
Guiding visitors through the history and to the sites
The Guide presents information in two ways. The first section provides a chronological review of what happened in the Shenandoah Valley over the course of the Civil War. It includes maps depicting movements of armies, timelines of the various military campaigns, and a list of the historic sites associated with those campaigns.
Communities throughout the eight-county National Historic District—and beyond—each have a unique part of the Valley’s Civil War history. The guide’s second section describes these distinct stories and provides detailed information about the historic sites in that community—location, hours of operation, contact information, and a brief site description.
Finally, the guide also offers general information about Civil War events and activities in the Shenandoah Valley and a list of resources to help travelers plan a visit to the region.
“This is the first comprehensive Civil War guide of its kind here in the Shenandoah Valley ,” said Jean Tardy Clark, a Foundation Trustee and chair of the Foundation’s Tourism Committee, which managed the project. Clark is also the director of Lexington-Rockbridge Area Tourism. “By helping visitors quickly understand the Valley’s Civil War history and making it much easier for them to find our Civil War sites, we hope to encourage them to stay longer and maybe learn a little more about our past.”
An overall vision for visitor services in the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District
The guide was completed in time for the opening on Monday of the new Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District Civil War Orientation Center in Winchester , the second of five planned orientation centers in the District. (View the release.) Together, the guide, the orientation centers, and the large brown signs at all of the major entrances into the National Historic District are the most visible parts of an overall plan to help visitors understand and explore the Shenandoah Valley’s unique and important Civil War story.
The first National Historic District orientation center opened in McDowell in 2005. An interim orientation center is under development for the Harrisonburg-Rockingham area and partners in the Signal Knob area of the National Historic District—where northern Shenandoah County , southern Frederick County , and Warren County converge—are beginning to consider options for their orientation facility.
The Battlefields Foundation’s visitor services initiatives are guided by the District’s Management and Implementation Plans, approved by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 2000, and the District-wide Marketing Plan, adopted by the Foundation’s Board of Trustees earlier this year. The plans were developed through a series of public meetings and were guided by partner organizations throughout the region. A District-wide Interpretive Plan is due to be completed this summer.
Preparing for the Civil War Sesquicentennial
Along with the orientation centers, the guide is part of the Battlefields Foundation’s effort to help partners in the Shenandoah Valley prepare for the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, which begins in 2011. As a main theatre of the Civil War and the site of more that 60 percent of its battles, Virginia is expected to be a primary destination for travelers seeking to learn more about this chapter in American history.
Guide details: availability, funding, development
The guide is available at visitor centers and Civil War sites throughout the region, at the 11 welcome centers along interstate roadway entrances into the state, and at other sites throughout Virginia and beyond. (*A list of these sites appears at the end of this release.) It can also be downloaded from the “Visit the Valley” area of the National Historic District website: www.ShenandoahAtWar.org.
(Note: A pdf of just the front cover of the guide may be downloaded from the news area of the National Historic District website: www.ShenandoahAtWar.org.)
The guide was funded in part by a marketing leverage grant from the Virginia Tourism Corporation as well as the Battlefields Foundation’s federal appropriation, and by tourism offices throughout the Valley.
Development of the guide was managed by the Battlefields Foundation’s Tourism Committee. Committee members Scott Harris, Director of the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park , and Don Pierce, Page One History Publications, served as content advisors on the project.
Created by Congress in 1996, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District encompasses Augusta , Clarke, Frederick , Highland , Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren counties in Virginia and the cities of Harrisonburg , Staunton , Waynesboro , and Winchester . The District’s legislation authorizes federal funding for the protection of ten Civil War battlefields in the Valley and for the coordination of interpretation and promotion of the Shenandoah Valley ’s Civil War history.
As authorized by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation serves as the non-profit manager of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District, partnering with local, regional, and national organizations and governments to preserve the Valley’s battlefields and interpret and promote the region’s Civil War story.
ON THE WEB:
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation and the
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District: