A striking granite monument on Virginia’s Cedar Creek Battlefield honoring Vermont’s 8th Volunteer Infantry Regiment has been all but hidden from public view since it was erected in 1885. Until recently, the site was in private hands. This week, the National Park Service is offering its first ranger-conducted tour of the memorial on Friday at 1 p.m. The same tour will be offered most Tuesdays and Saturdays at 1 p.m. until mid-August.
Meet the park ranger at 8739 Valley Pike in Middletown, Va. The entrance will be marked by a Park Service banner. Wear sturdy shoes because of uneven ground.
The Battle of Cedar Creek occurred on Oct. 19, 1864 when Confederates crossed Cedar Creek between Strasburg and Middletown in a pre-dawn ambush of a still-sleeping Union army. While Union soldiers scrambled to respond, one outnumbered brigade was ordered to hold off the attackers at the monument’s site to give commanders of the XIX corps time to regroup. The 8th Vermont led the operation, fighting the invaders in close quarter combat for a half-hour. Post-war accounts speak about the Vermonters trying to find the enemy in the darkness and the lethal but successful struggle to hold on to the colors.
The 8th Vermont was the last unit to pull back, leaving behind more than 60 percent of their men. The casualties were 110 of 164, including 13 of the 16 commissioned officers and three color bearers. Herbert E. Hill, one of the survivors, paid for the monument and had it installed. Three sides were left rough hewn, symbolizing how he and his colleagues were attacked on the front and both flanks. The fourth side is highly polished and bears an inscription relating what happened there.
The 12.5 acre monument tract was purchased recently by the Civil War Trust and the American Battlefield Preservation Program (an arm of the Park Service) with the assistance of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. A campaign to raise a total of $1.3 million for the monument site and another parcel on the battlefield as well as one at nearby Toms Brook was announced in February and concluded this month.
The parcel has been transferred to the Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, the country’s first public/private national park.