A new and revised sign known as Virginia Historical Marker JJ–10—denoting the Civil War’s 1863 Mine Run Campaign—was unveiled Aug. 25 in a ceremony beside State Route 20 at Locust Grove in eastern Orange County, according to the Lake of the Woods Civil War Study Group.
The new sign replaces the original JJ–10 marker, which had stood farther west on Route 20 for almost 90 years before it disappeared after being knocked down by a wayward vehicle three years ago.
Jack Phend, who coordinated the unveiling ceremony, said he had noticed the state marker had been hit and damaged, then was surprised to find it had disappeared.
Phend, vice president of the LOW Civil War Study Group, said the group’s board quickly agreed when he suggested it should help get the marker replaced. He then got area historians involved in developing new wording about the battle between Gens. George Meade and Robert E. Lee that took place in Locust Grove in the winter of 1863.
“This sign is now at the crossroads of the Mine Run Campaign,” Phend told the group that gathered for the unveiling.
The new marker’s location on State Route 20 is in front of the Locust Grove Town Center, the original site of the wartime Robinson’s Tavern. The tavern has its own state historical marker, JJ–15, a few yards away.
Study Group President Charles Brewer explained why his organization had become involved in returning the sign.
“The state did not have the money, and this would not have come to pass for years and years if we had not stepped in,” he said.
Brewer thanked Phend for noticing the marker had been knocked down by a vehicle and later disappeared from the roadside.
“Jack Phend led the entire effort, and the wording was created by several local historians, authors, and National Park Service staff. The goal was to get it correct and complete,” he said. “This is local language, folks.”
Orange County Supervisor Lee Frame said he encouraged the county Department of Tourism to get involved, and Tourism Director Lori Landes–Carter worked with Phend on the project.
“This shows that through public–private partnerships these are things that work,” Frame told the crowd. “The public side can get through the bureaucracy. The private side did the funding.”
Chris Snider, senior adviser to state Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, was on hand for the unveiling.
Snider said Reeves introduced a bill to include state funding for the sign, but that it had died with other budget appropriations proposals. Nevertheless, he said the legislation attracted attention to JJ–10 and helped speed the process of its approval by the state Department of Historic Resources, which oversees the markers.
Friends of Wilderness Battlefield President Mark Leach said its board agreed to contribute funds for JJ–10 on a site outside the National Park Service boundaries of the Wilderness battlefield in keeping with a FoWB goal of advancing historic preservation in the area.
The Mine Run Campaign was the last confrontation between the Union and Confederate armies before the Battle of the Wilderness—the beginning of the 1864 Overland Campaign—that started six months later.
This is the third location for the wandering historical maker.
The original JJ–10 Mine Run Campaign marker was installed in 1929 by the state Conservation and Development Commission on Route 20 near State Route 692, about five miles west.
Standing beside the new marker, Orange County historian Frank J. Walker said he discovered in the 1980s that the marker had been placed incorrectly in 1929. He decided to “unofficially” correct the error.
Walker enlisted the aid of a Virginia Department of Transportation employee to dig it up and reinstall it about 100 yards east of where Mine Run flows beneath Route 20. It stood there for more than 30 years, before being knocked down in 2016.
“This is a safer spot for both the sign and the people who stop to read it,” Walker said.
The marker’s resurrection got underway last winter, when Phend contacted the Department of Historic Resources.
But he was told it might be years before JJ–10 could be replaced because state budget funding for replacing missing historical markers was limited and there were so many already in line.
The alternative was for the CWSG to raise more than $1,900 required to cast the aluminum sign and to have it installed.
While CWSG does not have dues-paying membership, it maintains a list of about 250 people who keep up with its activities and have attended its monthly meetings and programs.
At the end of last year, Phend appealed to the CWSG contact list and others interested in historical preservation for help. The money was raised in less than two months.
Phend said about 45 people contributed. The Orange County Tourism Commission and Friends of Wilderness Battlefield pitched in, as well.
“We got this more quickly than we could have ever hoped for,” Phend said.
At the conclusion of the unveiling, Phend thanked Kenny and Lori Dotson, who own Locust Grove Town Center, for maintaining the landscaping of the site on which the markers stand. The Dotsons also have preserved the original well from Robinson’s Tavern near the intersection.
Spotsylvania historian Chris Mackowski provided input about the marker’s new text. Last fall, he published his most recent book, “The Great Battle Never Fought: The Mine Run Campaign, November 26–December 2, 1863.” Mackowski is scheduled to talk about the book and the campaign at the Civil War Study Group’s annual dinner meeting on Oct. 18.
For more on the Civil War Study Group, go to civilwarstudygroup.org.