An Aug. 22 letter in the Star-Exponent, positing that Culpeper County “does not need a moratorium on solar projects,” offered assertions requiring correction.
For the past 30 years, it has been my privilege to research, write and lecture on the Civil War in Culpeper County, and to conduct hundreds of tours here.
It has been my honor to have welcomed thousands of visitors to Culpeper to visit our battlefields. People arrive in busloads, vans and cars from afar, and many folks stay over for several days while visiting our peerless historic sites. Here, some context is in order.
Culpeper was the “geographical ground zero” for the inauguration of more major Civil War campaigns than any county in the country.
Culpeper was, unquestionably, the most fought over, marched and camped upon county, in the entire country. Thousands of soldiers, on both sides, came to Culpeper, and many never went home.
Please focus on this: Culpeper represents the final resting place for thousands of soldiers. Throughout the county, they not only rest in our cemeteries, but anonymously, buried hastily, in our farm fields and remote venues. This, I know for a fact, and you should, as well.
Please consider: The Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Bristoe Station, Mine Run and Overland campaigns all began in Culpeper. Plus, major actions took place at Cedar Mountain, Beverly’s Ford, Freeman’s Ford, Kelly’s Ford, Brandy Station, Raccoon Ford, Rappahannock Station and Morton’s Ford. And in the winter of 1863-1864, the Federal army’s 120,000 soldiers took custody over almost every farm, business, house and church.
As the war ground on, Gen. Robert E. Lee pulled his army south of the Rapidan River in November 1863 and established a 20-mile front confronting the Union’s Army of the Potomac, situated just across the river, in Culpeper. For over five months, the Rapidan separated the two warring armies. The river represented the Confederacy’s “last line of defense.”
When Gen. George G. Meade’s army crossed the Rapidan on May 4, 1864, the Confederate States of America was doomed and had less than a year to live.
But now, 155 years later, Cricket Solar—a benign moniker for such a potentially destructive force—has arrived in Culpeper, seeking to construct an industrial power plant of garish solar panels on more than a thousand acres of vital battlefield landscape comprising the “Rapidan Front.”
The heavily fought-over Morton’s and Raccoon Ford battlefields would be destroyed in major part by this wrong-headed proposal. Several antebellum homes, and an ancient church, would be suffocated on all sides by toxic, glaring solar panels.
Now, please reflect on this bold assertion by our letter writer:
“Any surrounding historical sites may be more protected than harmed by this solar project.” She adds, “These properties are privately owned and provide very little access to tourism.” And her final statement: “The Cricket Solar project has been revised to appease … concerns from historical groups.”
Taking these fallacious assertions, one at a time:
Who agrees that devastating ground construction associated with an industrial power plant “protects” vulnerable and fragile historic sites? No one that I know.
The thousands of visitors I have escorted down Algonquin Road for over 30 years, and past Summerduck, Lime Church, Greenville and Struan would be astounded to learn there is “little access to tourism.” I have hosted many tours at each of these fabulous properties while their gracious and proud owners openly extended the welcome mat to thankful and appreciative visitors.
And I can’t begin to tell you how many dozens of tours I have led over Morton’s Ford and Raccoon Ford. Both are “privately owned,” on both sides of the river.
By the way, at least 85 percent of Culpeper County’s battlefields are “privately owned.” All of us who care about our heritage remain deeply in the debt of devoted owners who are the principal stewards of Culpeper’s precious historic landscape.
Finally, which historical groups are “appeased” by revisions to Cricket Solar’s proposal? Not the American Battlefield Trust, Brandy Station Foundation or Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield.
Now, what would those of us who love and cherish Culpeper County’s history and its magnificent countryside like to see happen?
Simply put, we want Cricket to just go away, leave our county, and never come back. Go back to your subservient seat in Dominion Power’s throne room and forget about Culpeper.
The matter now rests before Culpeper County planning officials. Our group, Citizens for Responsible Solar, has served notice we will leave nothing to chance in our committed efforts to defeat an industrial project that would destroy sacred battlefields consecrated by the blood and courage of young Americans. Nope, not going to happen.