Grassroots effort at Kernstown
Trail Offers Pathway to Tumultuous Times
By Val Van Meter
The Winchester Star
KERNSTOWN — Under a warm sun and surrounded by bird song, area residents walked a historic battlefield Saturday.
Thanks, in part, to a $100,000 Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Park Service, the Glass-Glen Burnie Foundation offered a preview of what will, someday, become an attraction for Civil War buffs.
“War in the Backyard” is printed on the first marker on a 7/10-mile walking trail that begins in the backyard of Rose Hill farm, on Jones Road just southwest of Winchester.
Jim Clark (left), project manager at Rose Hill farm, talks with Nelda and Mike Head of Winchester about some of the defining characteristics of the new walking trail through the First Kernstown Civil War battlefield.
(Photo by Cosmo Balio)
It is the former home of William Glass and his family, and now belongs to the foundation.
On March 23, 1862, it was the site of the hottest fighting of the First Battle of Kernstown.
The battle was the opening salvo in Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s incredibly successful Valley Campaign. Although it was technically a defeat for Jackson, it succeeded in its purpose of deflecting troops from an attack on Richmond.
Jim Clark, project manager at Rose Hill, said the trail is the first project since the stabilization of the house was accomplished.
Rose Hill, built in 1730 and expanded just before the Civil War, was named to the National Register of Historic Landmarks in 1997.
“We’ve been literally hacking away at it,” said Jennifer Esler, executive director of Glen Burnie, of the trail project.
Clark said the over 300 acres at Rose Hill were heavily overgrown with shrub rose, Russian olive, and invasive trees such as Osage Orange.
In two years, using a single tractor and a bush hog, the foundation staff has reclaimed enough of the acreage to open the trail.
Seven markers take visitors from the rear of the house to a high ground point to view the stone wall, fought over by troops from the North and South through the afternoon hours of that long-ago spring day.
Designed by Esler, Education Coordinator Deborah Hilty, and Clark, the markers outline the history of the house and the actions of the battle. Visitors can guide themselves across the battlefield.
Mike and Nelda Head of Winchester explore the stone wall fought over by Union and Confederate troops during the First Battle of Kernstown.
(Photo by Cosmo Balio)
On the day of the action, Jackson advanced to Kernstown and attacked the Union troops at Pritchard’s Farm, east of Rose Hill, with about 3,700 men. To suppress Union artillery there, the Confederates set up guns on Sandy Ridge, behind Rose Hill.
Unknown to Jackson, the Union had between 8,500 and 9,000 men in the field.
Union troops sent to roust the guns came down Cedar Creek Grade. Crossing what is now Va. 37, they entered the farm below Sandy Ridge and found themselves facing Confederates protected by a waist-high limestone wall.
The Confederates held the ground most of the afternoon, until superior numbers and lack of ammunition caused a retreat.
On Saturday, docents with maps helped visitors orient themselves in the rolling landscape as they stood where Union troops faced the men in gray.
Much of Sandy Ridge is still overgrown. Clark said the limestone outcroppings that contributed to the wall more than 150 years ago limit clearing to early spring, before the grass begins to grow.
One unnoticed rock could destroy the bush hog, Clark said.
Clark said he hopes to remove more of the Osage Orange trees, briars, and brambles this year. In the future, visitors may see the ridge standing clean against the sky, as those soldiers did 142 years ago.
Esler said the foundation is currently focusing on finishing Glen Burnie’s Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, which is rising at the historic home and gardens off Amherst Street.
Saturday’s event at Rose Hill was a test, she said, to “work out the kinks of how to get people in and out of the site.”
“We’d love to open it on a regular basis,” Esler said, but right now, the $20,000 it would take to keep the trail open on weekends isn’t available.
Mike "Dusty" Chapman
Member: CWT, CVBT, NTHP, MOC, KBA, Stonewall Jackson House, Mosby Heritage Foundation
"I would have posted this on the preservation folder, but nobody reads that!" - Christopher Daley
The AC was not started with the beginner in mind. - Jim Kindred