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Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association

Board Members

The multi-talented board was assembled in early 2002. Together they have been working with an extensive network of organizations, businesses, and government officials to achieve their goals. They are dedicated to preserving battlefield land and artifacts, educating the public about this battle and the impact on civilians, and preserving heritage for future generations.

John F. Cummings, III, has had a deep rooted interest in the American Civil War for over 35 years and it continues passionately today as Director of the Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association.

A free-lance writer, John has had articles in national publications including North & South, Blue & Gray, The Free Lance Star, and The Washington Times.

Johns artistic talents brought commissions to illustrate the covers of historical novels by Ron Richards, and in 1988 he produced a well received commemorative poster for the 125th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg.

He has been interviewed by Potomac Magazine, Civil War News, Camp Chase Gazette, Richmond Times Dispatch, and Adelphia News Channel 3.

From 1992 to 1996 John served as president of National Lineage Publishing, publisher of Southern Heritage Magazine. Also in 1992 he established the National Heritage Preservation Association whose focus centered on the North Anna Battlefield Park in Hanover County, Virginia. Working closely with the General Crushed Stone Company and Hanover County Government, John helped advise and facilitate the parks beginnings. In 1994 the NHPA managed the highly successful 130th Anniversary Commemoration of the battle at North Anna.

John was a reenactor for over a decade. With ancestors on both sides of the war, John honors his Confederate ancestor, James Blair who served in the 45th Virginia Infantry with membership in the Major General Fitzhugh Lee Camp #1805, Sons of Confederate Veterans.

John hails from Fairfax, Virginia where he spent 16 years in the do-it-yourself home center industry, last working for the Hechinger Corporation as a Loss Prevention Auditor. There he gained a reputation for his tenacity and attention to detail as well as his leadership and training skills.

The two week contest of North and South at Spotsylvania Court House has now captured the imagination and determination of Cummings. John has dedicated his energies to expand the public awareness of that fight and brought to light many of the overlooked and forgotten treasures the area offers. He has spent the past four years researching the experience of Fredericksburg resident John Henry Myer. John wants to ensure Spotsylvania will be a showcase destination for visitors during the sesquicentennial commemoration of the American Civil War in 2011. John serves on the Spotsylvania Courthouse Tourism and Special Events Commission. He is also a board member of The Friends of the Fredericksburg Area Battlefields. His first book, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Courthouse, was published in December 2002 by Arcadia Publishing. John is presently preparing three other books of local interest.

John and his wife, Karen, live within a mile of Spotsylvania Court House on land traversed by the Union 5th Corps during the struggle of May 1864.


Karen R. Cummings, is an Accountant for Spotsylvania County Government. She obtained an AAS degree in Accounting in 1978, a BLS degree in Business Administration in 1987, and is working on a MBA degree.  Karen is a board member of the Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields. She received a cerificate for completing a Grant Writing and a Project Management Course and is on the Grant Committee. 
Merlyn (Merl) Witt, retired with the rank of Colonel from the USAF in 1992. He has Master degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Business Administration. Merl and his wife, Melanie, own Nielyn Consulting, Inc.  They also are owners of "Salem", a late 1700s plantation house near Spotsylvania Courthouse. The interior of Salem is currently being restored and Merl has been researching the history of the home. Merl was the past president of Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation and is a Life Member. He is also a member of CVBT and Spotsylvania Courthouse Tourist Development Committee.
Melanie Witt,  an RN, a certified professional coder, and has a Master's Degree in Health Economics. She is an independent consultant specializing in physician education for obstetricans and gynecologists regarding compliance, coding and documentation issues.  She also raises horses. 

Terry Thomann is a native of Illinois, but a Virginian by choice having located in Spotsylvania County in 2000 for the purpose of establishing Civil War Life - The Soldier's Museum. He retired from Commonwealth Edison Company of Chicago where he was director of training at three power plants, and later was responsible for the implementation of computer based training at the company's nuclear facilities. Terry is a graduate of the University of St. Francis, Joliet, Illinois with a BS in Business and Professional Arts. He is a member of the Spotsylvania Courthouse Tourism and Special Events Commission. Terry is a member of the Virginia Association of Museum, The Company of Military Historians, Rappahannock Valley Civil War Round Table,  Fredericksburg Civil War Round Table, Fredericksburg Revolutionary War Round Table, Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields, The Civil War Preservation Trust, The Central Virginia Battlefield Trust and Friends of the Hunley.

Ron Pennington

Ed Bell, is a long time employee of Lockheed Martin (coming up on 24 years in 2002) and works in Dahlgren, Virginia. Ed is currently a member of The Civil War Round Table of Fredericksburg, Virginia. He has always been interested in the Civil War, but only recently his interest has increased since returning to the Fredericksburg area after living in California for 9 years. His sister did extensive genealogical research on both sides of the family. His paternal great-great grandfather was a private in the Carpenter's Battery of the Stonewall Brigade. His maternal great-great grandfather was a private in the 42nd Georgia Infantry Co. K and served 35 days before dying of a camp disease.

James Anderson, obtained his advanced electronics education through the USNavy and holds an Associate Degree in Electronics Technology. He has an FCC license and is a Certified Virginia State Planning Commissioner. He worked for Medical Technology Resources, Inc. until 1978 when he started the Biomedical Services Department at Mary Washington Hospital. James also served over 10 years as President of The Olde Greenwich Homeowners Assoc. in Spotsylvania County. James served on the Spotsylvania Planning Commission in the 1980s.
James is currently the Corp. Asset & Technology Manager for the MediCorp Health System.
Eric J. Mink, is a historian and the Cultural Resources Management Specialist for the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Eric graduated from Mary Washington College with a B.A. in Historic Preservation and American Studies. During his time with the National Park Service, Eric has worked at the Gettysburg National Military Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park, and Richmond National Battlefield Park. Eric is serving as the NPS liaison with SBEA.
Ellen Anderson, born and raised in Virginia, also has seen the loss of important historical resources in the area.  Ellen wants to help educate the public on the preservation of historic sites in and around the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania area. Ellen extensively researched geneology for her family. She is retired and has been concentrating on volunteer activities for SBEA. Ellen has researched the ladies period ball gowns for the SBEA ball in November 2003. She also has crafted the period tobacco bags, ration bags, and other period items.
National Board of Advisors
Jack Edlund, Archaeological Resource Consultant
James McElhinney, Artist/Educator
Robert T. Hawkes, Jr., PhD., Professor, George Mason University
Gordon Rhea, Author/Historian
Rob Hodge, Author/Preservationist

  • Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association
  • P.O. Box 1964
  • Spotsylvania, VA  22553
  • (540) 582-7469