"In the early 1920's the fields were completely unmarked, overgrown with timber, no roads, no markers, nothing to indicate where the engagements were, and you had to learn to know your way around." - James Ambler Johnston -
On regular Sunday outings, Douglas S. Freeman and J. Ambler Johnston explored the Richmond area battlefields and fortifications. They persuaded the Richmond Rotary Club to adopt a plan to identify and mark these historic sites. In September 1921, this group enlisted the aid of dozens of Confederate veterans from the Soldiers' Home in Richmond. Twenty-one cars (and a tow truck) set out to tour the proposed sites.
Freeman, Johnston and others formed the Battlefield Markers Association whose purpose was to "identify points of interest on various battle fields of Virginia and to place thereon suitable markers". The association raised $10,000 and erected 59 roadside markers. Each marker consists of a cast iron plate set on a concrete capstone atop a granite base. The Richmond Stove Works donated the cast iron plate, the Economy Concrete Company donated the capstones, and the Boscobel Quarries donated the rough granite.
The efforts to preserve these Civil War sites continued with the establishment of the Richmond Battlefield Parks Corporation, a "non-profit organization to preserve and make accessible the battlefields around Richmond". They raised money and purchased land which they turned over to the Commonwealth of Virginia. The efforts of these pioneering preservationist made possible the formation of the Richmond National Battlefield Park in 1936.
Douglas Southall Freeman wrote most, if not all, of the inscriptions for these markers. These were the first highway markers in Virginia and are today known as the "Freeman Markers."
One of the original markers was destroyed when the Richmond Army Air Base was built during WWII (current day Richmond International Airport, the site of the first of the Seven Days' Battles on June 25, 1862). Several of the markers have been moved from their original locations due to road projects and development.
|©2013 Bernard J. Fisher|