Many Shenandoah Valley residents can trace their lineage to the first settlers in the valley. Many who have come since have done so in appreciation of the historical significance of the valley. Despite these strong historical ties, residents of the Shenandoah Valley face the erosion of the very lands that give the valley its heritage. The valley played a pivotal role in the Civil War during Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign, and the 1864 burning. It was during this latter campaign that the Battle of Toms Brook occurred on Oct. 9, 1864.
Despite being a smaller engagement, the historical significance of this battle is incredible. Primarily a cavalry engagement, the Battle at Toms Brook lead to a complete route of the Confederates, following an audacious flanking maneuver along Back Road by General Custer. This defeat crippled the effectiveness of the Confederate cavalry, which allowed General Sheridan to burn the valley. The loss of the breadbasket of the Confederacy greatly hastened the end of the war.
Today, a different battle is being fought on this land. This battle concerns the preservation of this hallowed ground. As development moves into the valley, it offers a benefit to the local economy, but also the eternal loss of historically significant land. The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation has worked tirelessly to preserve such land. The foundation recently undertook the preservation of 24 acres in the heart of the Toms Brook battlefield that would otherwise be lost to residential development.
While not affiliated with the foundation, my family has worked with it in previous preservation efforts. The foundation has done a tremendous job of preserving many acres of historically significant land, but it needs the public’s help in reaching its goals. I encourage all valley residents to visit the foundation’s website to read about both the Civil War history of the valley, as well as the many preservation milestones that have already been reached. I would also encourage any reader who shares my love for the history of the valley to consider helping the foundation in preserving battlefields, such as Toms Brook, for future generations.
Matthew R. Spiker, Maurertown
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