Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Richmond Battlefield Dedicated

Depot opens battlefield site to public

Interpretive markers unveiled

Bill Robinson
Register News Writer

Flags of 10 states fluttered in a cool breeze under a cloudless sky Friday morning as the Blue Grass Army Depot dedicated a portion of the Richmond Battlefield that lies on its grounds.

The steeply rolling landscape, near the depot’s southwest corner, was the scene of the first large-scale infantry clashes in the Aug. 29-30 Civil War battle.

Two Civil War re-enactors — one uniformed as a Confederate and the other as a Union soldier — unveiled an interpretive marker at the edge of a parking lot overlooking the battlefield.

Elizabeth Miller of Prestonsburg, representing the United Daughters of the Confederacy, placed a wreath honoring the Confederate dead. Then three children dressed in period costume — Anna, Sarah and Eric Burns — placed a wreath in memory of the Union dead.

“In the field before you, two armies met,” said Linda Ashley, president of the Battle of Richmond Association.

Union and Confederate flags were placed where opposing army units stood when the battle began.

According to one Union soldier’s written recollection, which Ashley read, the Confederates emerged from a ravine to the federal forces’ left, “howling like the wind.”

The Union men — some of whom had joined the army no more that three weeks earlier — stood their ground for two hours before another, even larger Confederate column rose out of a ravine to their right.

Attacked from three sides, the Union soldiers fled in panic, Ashley said.

They made two more stands before the day concluded with “the most complete Confederate victory of the war.”

The area will be open to the public, said Kevin Bennett, the depot’s attorney who presided at the ceremony.

“All you will need to do is show your identification at the depot entrance,” said Bennett, a Civil War scholar who has written about the battle for the nationally distributed “Blue and Gray” magazine.

Eventually, walking trails will be installed in the area, said Col. Joseph Tirone, the depot commander.

Some partial restoration of the area, which has buffered the depot’s operations from US 421, already has taken place, and more will be done in the future, he said. The preservation work, including funds for the interpretive markers, has been financed with proceeds from the depot’s recycling efforts.

The depot is only one of two United States military installations on which a battle took place, Tirone said. The Army was happy to make the area available to the public, he said, because such historic sites tell the Army’s story as well as the nation’s.

In 2005, the Army transferred former commander’s residence at the depot to the county, and the home, which was standing when the battle took place, is now a museum and visitors center.

“The county has had a long economic partnership with the depot,” said Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark, “and we are so pleased that the Army has us in a partnership to preserve our history.”

In addition to residing on a Civil War battlefield, the depot also is home to a pre-historic American Indian site, Tirone said.

The depot, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, keeps a full-time archeologist on staff to recover artifacts and document the area’s ancient history.

Depot archeologist Nathan White works with Eastern Kentucky University students to fulfill the facility’s legal obligation to preserve its history, Tirone said.

Some artifacts from the Civil War battle recovered on depot property are displayed at the visitors center.