In early October 1862, following the carnage of Antietam, the major armies of both the Union and Confederacy were within 100 miles of Washington, DC. President Abraham Lincoln was worried but he had a plan. With elections coming up, Lincoln saw an opportunity both to end the war quickly and, perhaps, help with the upcoming mid-term elections. To forcefully push his plan, the President journeyed out to his field commander, General George McClellan, to urge him to rapidly move his forces between General Robert E Lee’s struggling army and the Confederate capital of Richmond.
Lee saw the danger immediately and began to march his troops south along the west side of the Blue Ridge. He knew of McClellan’s conservative style and developed his own plan to gain the time he needed to block McClellan’s movement toward Richmond. On October 28 Lee sent General JEB Stuart and a modest force of “but 1000“ cavalry and horse artillery with orders to delay McClellan’s very large force. McClellan’s advance units and JEB Stuart’s small force clashed around Unison in early November.
On October 31, Stuart, his dashing artillery officer John Pelham and a small handpicked band, seeking the enemy, rode from Bloomfield through the crossroads village of Unison (often still called Union at the time) and encountered Union pickets and the vanguard of front line Union forces arrayed along the Snickersville Turnpike. Behind them were 90,000 men, wagons and supplies in five corps. The small band of Confederates routed about 100 Union cavalry, chased them to Aldie, then withdrew.
On Sept. 22, 2011, Virginia’s State Review Board and Virginia’s Historic Resources Board both voted unanimously to place the 8,000-acre Unison Battlefield Historic District in the Virginia Landmarks Register. They simultaneously recommended to the National Park Service that the battlefield be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is expected to go on the National Register sometime this winter.Department of Historic Resources Director Kathleen Kilpatrick praised both the battlefield and the Unison Preservation Society for what they are doing for historic preservation in this region. She cited the pristine nature of the battlefield, with its farms, villages, historic dirt roads and no development, as one of best preserved battlefields and noted that more than half the battlefield is already under conservation easement.The Land Trust of Virginia, a major supporter of UPS and the battlefield project, calls the region one the best preserved most heavily easemented places in the nation. Being on the historic registers will make easements easier for landowners within the battlefield. Severaladditional battlefield easements are now pending.
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