Group restores forest

1,825 trees are planted on battlefield

By Ryan Cornell

The trees planted this week on the Third Winchester battlefield will be celebrating their first growth rings at the battle’s sesquicentennial next September, and officials from the Shenandoah Valley Battlefield Foundation expect the trees to last for 150 more years.

Members of the foundation planted the trees on Monday and Tuesday to restore a forest present during the Battle of Third Winchester. Chase Milner, manager of stewardship at the foundation, said the 1,825 newly planted trees are all native hardwood and evergreen species that were present in the Shenandoah Valley region in the 19th century.

The trees, which are in their seedling stage, include varieties of common apple, hickory, oak, walnut, witchhazel and pine. Milner said the pines have the earliest maturation date, maturing in about 50 to 60 years.

“One of the purposes of planting evergreens is that they’re pioneers,” he said. “They define the boundary, the edges of what truly defines the Second Woods.”

He said the boundaries of the 8-acre Second Woods are recorded in historians’ maps of the battle, though the fate of the trees is unknown. He speculated that much of the forest might have been cut down by foraging parties for use as firewood.

“If you went out there before this week, you would’ve seen eight acres of open fallow hayfield,” he said.

He said the project marks a first for the foundation, planting trees as part of a historical landscape restoration, though it’s been done before by the National Park Service on the Antietam and Cedar Mountain battlefields.

The Battle of Third Winchester, also known as the Battle of Opequon, was fought on farmland northeast of the city on Sept. 19, 1864 and recorded 8,630 total casualties. Milner said the Second Woods was defended by Confederate troops led by Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon and served as a heavily contested area of fighting.

People can view the project site by the battlefield’s five-mile walking trail

Milner said the project is funded by a $7,200 grant from Virginia Trees for Clean Water and an equivalent amount of donations. The Second Woods reforestation is part of a larger $2.2 million Third Winchester battlefield restoration and interpretation project conducted by the foundation.

He said people interested in contributing to the battlefield’s restoration project can donate directly through their website at shenandoahatwar.org or can email the foundation at info@svbf.org

Proceeds from the foundation’s coffee varieties also go toward the supporting the battlefields. Milner said The Fresh Market started selling the varieties at its Ashburn location this week. He also said that the foundation is asking for names for its new espresso blend — other ones include Jubal’s Jolt and Stonewall’s Sunrise — that relate to General Robert E. Lee.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com