Monthly Archives: June 2014

500 Trees to Be Dedicated to Civil War Fallen

In its continuing effort to appropriately commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership will host a Living Legacy Tree Planting Project ceremony, scheduled to take place on Sunday, June 29th at 2:30 p.m., at Oatlands Historic House and Gardens in Leesburg, Virginia. We are thrilled that the The Commandant’s Own, the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and the official Color Guard of the Marine Corps will be participating in the ceremony. The 60 members of this prestigious military group will perform as part of the ceremony, which is free and open to the public.

screenshot- 2014-06-09 at 2.09.52 PMThe United States Marine Corps Drum & Bugle Corps and the Official Color Guard of the Marine Corps are part of the Marine Corps Detachment attached to Marine Barracks Washington, also known as the “Oldest Post of the Corps.” These Marines have agreed to participate in the June 29th Ceremony to honor the over 500 fallen Civil War soldiers who will be commemorated with newly planted and dedicated trees along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway, Rt. 15.  The Marine Corps Color Guard carries the official Battle Colors of the Marine Corps. The 54 streamers and silver bands displayed on the battle colors commemorate the military campaigns in which Marines have participated. They span the entire history of the nation, from the American Revolution to the present.

The June 29th Living Legacy Tree Project Planting Ceremony is scheduled the week of Independence Day and serves as a reminder to us of the sacrifice made by generations before.  This planting is part of the Living Legacy Tree Planting project, a sweeping and ambitious effort to plant or dedicate a tree for each of the more than 620,000 soldiers who died during the American Civil War and was launched by the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership to create an appropriate legacy for the Civil War Sesquicentennial. Each tree is geotagged to share the name of the soldier, where he was born, where he died and include the story of the soldier’s life.

These particular trees are being planted adjacent to Oatlands’ property along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) National Scenic Byway, which was designated by Congress as the 99th scenic byway in the country.  Oatlands is at the geographical center of the JTHG National Scenic Byway, is one of two National Trust for Historic Preservation sites within the corridor, and served as the site for the inaugural Living Legacy Tree Planting Project.


Photo by Kenneth Garrett. © Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership

In addition to the musical interlude, remarks will be given by JTHG Partnership President Cate Magennis Wyatt, Senior Executive Brock Bierman, and local elected officials. Students who have been researching the stories of the fallen soldiers will also be on hand to dedicate the trees that day.  Oatlands will be offering free admission to the mansion for anyone attending the ceremony, and welcomes visitors to join the opening of their Annual Art Show with a reception beginning at 5:30 in the Carriage House.

This will be the seventh planting ceremony, each one of which recognizes the individuals for whom the tree is planted.  Previous tree plantings have taken place in Leesburg, Virginia, Williamsport, Maryland, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and have included such dignitaries as National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, National Trust for Historic Preservation President & CEO Stephanie Meeks, former Virginia Department of Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton, and others.  “This is one of the most beautiful and inspiring ideas I have ever seen – this notion of planting a living tree for each person that fell in the Civil War,” Meeks said.

As plantings continue, the Living Legacy Tree Project will eventually stretch along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway, a 180-mile swath of land that runs from Gettysburg, PA to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA.  The JTHG National Scenic Byway, which crosses the Mason Dixon Line, serves as a link to each of the battlefields and connects over 30 historic communities, each of which was gravely impacted by the Civil War.  The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area holds the largest concentration of Civil War battlefield sites in the country, including the beginning of the War (Harpers Ferry and Manassas), the middle (Antietam and Gettysburg) and the end, (Appomattox).

The Living Legacy Project will create a unified color palette that reminds visitors that they are, indeed, on hallowed ground.  Upon completion, this initiative will create the first 180 mile landscaped allee in the world and the only allee dedicated to honoring the most defining moment in American history.  A signature palette of seasonal trees and plantings, including redbuds, red oaks, red maple, and red cedar have been selected to represent the courage and valor of the individuals being honored with this project. A secondary palette, including canopy and understory trees, evergreens, shrubs, and ground coverings, will also feature red as a predominant color, with plantings including black gum trees, sassafras, and winterberry.  The native selection is appropriate to the diverse landscapes along this historic corridor, and remains sensitive to the local ecology, scenic views, and development patterns.   “The Living Legacy Tree Project touched me when I read about it in USA Today, such a noble tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Michael A. Dirr, Ph.D, a horticulturist, author, and one of the leading experts on horticulture.  “How could anyone not want to contribute to such a movement? 620,000 trees may seem daunting but the cause is worthy and achievable.”

It’s amazing the support we have received to accomplish this particular planting.  Without companies like, Asplundh Tree Co, Capital Party Rentals, Clem’s Garage, Design Build Construction, Dominion, Don’s Johns, Enterprise, ESRI, Hart Tree Preservation, Jackson Nursery, Lee Highway Nursery, Lowe Products Company, Inc., Oatlands Historic House & Gardens, Poly Processing, Ratcliff Masonry, Ryder, Saunders Nursery, Virginia News Group, Winchester Equipment, and others, this planting wouldn’t be taking place.  This is something everyone can get behind.  Therefor, we hope other businesses, schools, community groups, and individuals will contribute to this project.  In addition, the JTHG Partnership is seeking $100 contributions to support and plant each tree.  Donors may select a soldier to honor, as the trees will be geo-tagged to allow Smart Phone users to learn the story of the soldier, providing a strong educational component to engage interest in the region’s historical heritage and literally bringing the tree to life.  For more information, check out the Living Legacy Project’s dedicated website at

Make the Journey Better

There are many great destinations in America, but there are very few great journeys left. This is because we live in a world of rapid change, but also growing homogeneity. Today, if you were suddenly dropped along a road outside of most American cities, you wouldn’t have the slightest idea where you were because it all looks exactly the same. Over the past 50 years too many of our townscapes have gone from the unique to the uniform and from the stylized to the standardized.

New building materials can be imported from anywhere. Hills can be flattened and streams put in culverts. We can transform the landscape with great speed and build anything that fits our budget or strikes our fancy. Technological innovation and the global economy make it easy for building plans drawn up at a corporate office in New Jersey to be applied over and over again in Phoenix, Philadelphia, Providence or Peru.

The deadening sameness is particularly pronounced along many of our highways and at the entrances to our communities. Charles Kuralt, who spent a career “on the road”, used to say that “thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything”.

The staff, supporters and partners of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground have done a great job of promoting and protecting many of the historic destinations along the corridor, but they have done a much less good job of preserving and enhancing the journey: the experience of traveling from one end of the corridor to another.

We all know the difference between a road that beckons and one that depresses and driving along Route 15 can indeed be depressing: far too many billboards, strip malls, cookie cutter franchises and look-a-like subdivisions follow us down the road. And talk about “context sensitive road design”, there is none. Every new bridge railing is a Jersey barrier; every road project simply aims to move traffic faster, at the expense of everything else.

We see relatively little of any place on foot, therefore preserving what we see from the road is critical to the corridor’s sense of place. Place is more than just a location on a map, A sense of place is a unique collection of qualities and characteristics – visual, cultural, social, environmental – that provide meaning to a location. Sense of place is what makes one town different from another town, but it is also what makes our physical surroundings valuable and worth caring about.

The more any community in Virginia or Maryland comes to look just like every other community the less reason there is to visit or invest. On the other hand the more a community does to enhance its uniqueness, the more reasons there are to visit. When it comes to 21st century economic development a key concept is “community differentiation”. Sameness is not a plus in the world we live in today. If you can’t differentiate your community from any other community, you will have no competitive advantage.

So what can be done to make the journey better? 1. Development design guidelines for new commercial buildings and signs within view of the corridor. Promote the guidelines heavily and give annual awards to business that do the best job of building to these guidelines. This is already being done in the Shenandoah Valley and in the PA Wilds (i.e. North Central Pennsylvania). 2. Demand that the Virginia and Maryland Departments of Transportation apply context sensitive design standards to all new highway projects with the corridor. US 15 should be treated like it is a parkway, not like a typical highway. 3. Consider establishing a new land trust that would focus on acquiring viewshed or conservation easements on properties along the road. The idea of “saving you view and getting a tax break too” has already been applied in areas like Washington County Maryland where the state partnered with groups like The Conservation Fund and the Maryland Environmental Trust to buy easements on land within view of the Antietam battlefield.

Author Louis L’Amour used to say that the “trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel to fast and you will miss all that is worth traveling for.” Let’s all work together to save not just the destinations but the journey as well.

Flag Day: A Brief History

The first call to make June 14 a national Flag Day holiday came in 1861. On June 8, Charles Dudley Warner, the editor of the Hartford Evening Press, wrote an editorial calling for two new American holidays, Constitution Day on September 17 and Flag Day on June 14. Flag Day would commemorate the day in 1777 that the Second Continental Congress enacted the first Flag Resolution, which called for the flag of the United States to have thirteen white stars in a blue field (“representing a new constellation”) and thirteen alternating red and white stripes.

Flags flew in Connecticut on June 14, 1861, and there was a flurry of media interest north of the Mason-Dixon line. But Warner’s idea soon faded away.

On the hundredth anniversary of the first Flag Resolution, June 14, 1877, several notable Flag Day ceremonies took place around the nation. In Boston, for example, the original Star-Spangled Banner was displayed at the Old South Meeting House. But once again, the idea did not take hold nationwide.

Then in 1885, Bernard John (B.J.) Cigrand, a 19-year-old teacher at a one-room Schoolhouse in Waubeka, Wisconsin, set in motion a series of events that would culminate in a nationwide Flag Day.

Courtesy of National Flag Day

Cigrand, the son of immigrants from Luxembourg, kept a small American flag in his classroom. On June 14, 1885, he asked his students to write an essay about what the flag meant to them. The exercises he held that day in the classroom in Waubeka—about midway between Chicago and Green Bay—are generally recognized as the nation’s first formal Flag Day observance.

That act set Cigrand on a long quest to lobby for the creation of a national Flag Day holiday, which he initially called Flag Birthday. Beginning with “The Fourteenth of June,” an article he wrote in June 1886 in the Chicago newspaper Argus, Cigrand penned countless newspaper and magazine articles and pamphlets arguing for the holiday. He also wrote several books and made hundreds of speeches espousing his Flag Day cause.

B.J. Cigrand left teaching to attend dental school, receiving his degree from the University Dental College in Chicago in 1888. He practiced dentistry in Aurora, Illinois, and was a Professor of Prosthetic Dentistry and president of the American College of Dental Surgery. But lobbying on behalf of Flag Day remained Cigrand’s passion throughout his life.

Beginning in the early 1890s Cigrand’s flag celebration idea began to take hold in many cites and towns. In 1894, Cigrand’s missionary work on behalf of Flag Day—which included helping found the Illinois Flag Day Association and the National Flag Day Association—resulted in its first big success in Chicago. On June 14, some 300,000 schoolchildren took party in city-wide Flag Day activities held in five parks, the first public school celebration of its kind.

That same year New York Governor Roswell P. Flower signed an order directing that all public buildings in the Empire State display the flag on June 14. With that, the Flag Day concept began to spread around the nation.

Veterans and patriotic groups such as the Sons of the American Revolution, the Society of Colonial Dames, and the Daughters of the American Revolution played a large part in lobbying for Cigrand’s cause. The Grand Army of the Republic, the nation’s most influential veterans service organization, initially did not support a June 14 Flag Day holiday. The group’s leadership believed that the date was too close to Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. But sentiment for Flag Day began to grow within the organization, and in its sister group, the Woman’s Relief Crops, which supported the work of Cigrand’s American Flag Association.

In 1891, the New York State Board of Education mandated that all public schools observe June 14 with ceremonies. The Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia held a Flag Day celebration that same year on June 14. Over the next twenty-five years many states and localities officially celebrated Flag Day.

In Michigan, for example, the legislature approved a Flag Day resolution in 1901. The state’s governor, Aaron T. Bliss, issued a proclamation designating June 14, 1902, as Flag Day in Michigan. “The breezes stealing in from the Great Lakes and the rising sun should find Old Glory waving from every home, from every schoolhouse, from every church and every public building,” the governor proclaimed.

Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 Proclamation

Less than two years later, on May 30, 1916, as it became increasingly likely that America would soon be fighting in the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson established Flag Day through a presidential proclamation. Wilson made a Flag Day speech on June 14 near the Washington Monument after having led a flag-saturated preparedness parade in which some 66,000 people marched from the Capitol along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. Wilson himself carried the Stars and Stripes at the head of the parade.

Woodrow Wilson, holding U.S. flag, in parade, on Preparedness Day, Washington, D.C. Courtesy Library of Congress

Woodrow Wilson, holding U.S. flag, in parade, on Preparedness Day, Washington, D.C.
Courtesy Library of Congress

“I regard this day as a day of rededication to all the ideals of the United States,” Wilson said. “As I see the winds lovingly unfold the beautiful lines of our great flag, I shall seem to see a hand point the way of duty, no matter how hard, no matter how long, which we shall tread while we vindicate the glory and honor of the United States.”

Wilson did not make Flag Day a legal public holiday, however; nor has any President done so since then. Only Pennsylvania, which took action in 1937, has chosen to make June 14 a legal state holiday.

But even though it’s not an official national public holiday, the day has been observed nationwide since Wilson’s proclamation. On August 3, 1949, President Harry Truman signed into law a resolution passed by Congress designating June 14th of each year National Flag Day. That measure also calls upon the President to issue an annual proclamation calling for a Flag Day observance and for the display of the flag on all federal government buildings. In 1966, Congress passed a Joint Resolution asking the president to issue an annual National Flag Week proclamation as well, and to call on American citizens to display the flag during the entire week in which June 14 falls.

Every year since then our Presidents have made Flag Day and Flag Week Proclamations, directing U.S. government officials to fly the flag on all federal buildings and asking all Americans, as President Ronald Reagan put it in his 1981 Flag Day Proclamation, to fly the flag “from their porches, windows and storefronts.”

In his 2013 Flag Day/Flag Week message, President Obama said: “Let us raise our flags high, from small-town storefronts to duty stations stretched around the globe, and let us look to them once more as we press on in the march toward a more perfect Union.”

(This post is adapted from journalist and historian Marc Leepson’s Flag: An American Biography (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2005), a history of the American flag from the beginnings to the 21st century.)