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New Cedar Creek sign to honor Vermont soldiers

Vermont Speaker of the House Shap Smith, far left, author Howard Coffin and Sen. Joe Benning unveil the roadside placard to be installed at Cedar Creek in MIddletown this fall. Behind them, a painting of the Battle of Cedar Creek hangs in the Vermont Capitol's ceremonial room. Photo courtesy of Joe Benning (Buy photo)

By Ryan Cornell

MIDDLETOWN -- Vermont and Virginia sit right beside each other in an alphabetical list, and when it comes to the Battle of Cedar Creek, they're just as intertwined.

More Vermont soldiers fought at Cedar Creek than in any other Civil War battle, and a painting depicting the battle hangs in the ceremonial room of Vermont's state Capitol, where public functions and press conferences are held.

A new sign honoring the sacrifice of Vermont troops in the Battle of Cedar Creek will join the Middletown battlefield this fall, according to Tim Stowe, president of the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation.

"When the battle was fought, troops came from many different states, but Vermont took a very heavy toll," he said.

The sign explains the role of Vermont soldiers in the Union victory at Cedar Creek, and will be erected in a pull-off along U.S. 11 across from the Heater House. It is being funded by the Vermont legislature.

An existing monument memorializes these soldiers from the Green Mountain State, though it's hidden from plain view.

Joe Benning, minority leader of the Vermont Senate, is part of the committee heading the project.

"I happened to be riding down Valley Pike three years ago and I noticed there wasn't any place that marked what happened to be the most famous battle for our troops," Benning said. "I had a conversation with folks [at the battlefield's headquarters] who said this marker is off public property and in the woods. Had it not been for that conversation, I wouldn't have found where the troops were."

Unlike most of Virginia's historical markers, which are gray, black and white, the new sign will keep with the colors of Vermont's green and gold markers.

"The green and gold will be like a beacon to any Vermonter driving down the road," he said. "It's the first time one of our historical road signs will be placed outside the state."

He said the new sign will stand on a pole about 10 feet above the ground. At the base of the monument, another sign will show a reproduction of the painting along with some information about its painter, Julian Scott.

Soon after the end of the Civil War, Scott was commissioned to make a painting of the battle, Benning said, and used photographs of soldiers to paint their faces into the scene.

One of those soldiers, a captain named Thomas Kennedy, is shown being carted off the battlefield with a leg wound.

According to Benning, Kennedy recovered from his wounds at the Heater House and was protected by Mrs. Heater until Union forces retook the position.

He said that when Scott approached the Vermont legislature asking for funding for the painting, Kennedy was a member of the state's House of Representatives and insinuated himself into the center of the painting.

"Which to me, just goes to show that politicians haven't changed," joked Benning.

The sign will be unveiled at Cedar Creek's 150th reenactment weekend from Oct. 17 to 19. Between 7,000 and 8,000 reenactors are anticipated to attend the events.

At its work session on Monday, Middletown Town Council approved donating $600 to the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation for its sesquicentennial events this year.

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

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