Civil War Battlefield Conservation: Virginia
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Photo by Ken Lund/Flickr
The Conservation Fund has helped protect a dozen Civil War battlefields across the state of Virginia.
Beaver Dam Creek
We protected 236 acres in the Chickahominy River watershed including part of the Federal line during the second of the Seven Days battles in June 1862.
In August 1864 Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant ordered Major General Philip H. Sheridan to command the U.S. forces in the Shenandoah Valley and to “put himself South of the enemy, and follow him to the death. Wherever the enemy goes, let our troops go also.” On October 19 Lieutenant General Jubal A. Early’s Confederates opened the final major battle in the valley with an early morning attack that pushed the Federals north toward Middletown. Sheridan reestablished control and then rode the new lines to the cheers of his troops. His powerful counterattack that afternoon forced Early into a retreat that became a rout.
The Fund assisted the Cedar Creek Foundation in its purchase of 12 acres, adjacent to its Visitor Center, that were in the area of the Confederate advance during the battle.
Chancellorsville: Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park
The Fund protected more than 80 acres along the Orange Plank Road, where General Robert E. Lee’s troops engaged U.S. forces and pushed them back across the Rappahannock River. Additionally, two acres on the site of Stonewall Jackson’s brilliant flank against the U.S. Army were protected. The lands were added to the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. The Fund also donated an adjacent flank attack site to the park.
We also helped the Richard King Mellon Foundation protect battlefields in Chancellorsville. The foundation protected the Jackson Trail by purchasing 422 acres and donating an easement over the land to the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and the fee ownership to Spotsylvania County for watershed protection and as a recreation area. The foundation also protected the Jackson Trail and a heron rookery by purchasing 160 acres and donating an easement over the land to the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and the fee ownership to Spotsylvania County.
The Fund purchased land at the U.S. logistic and command center for the Siege of Petersburg and Richmond. The land was added to the Petersburg National Battlefield.
The Fund assisted the Civil War Preservation Trust with a bridge loan from its Battlefield Revolving Fund, established by grants from the Gilder Foundation, that resulted in an easement on more than 50 acres on this Shenandoah Valley battlefield.
The 30-acre Embrey Farm was the site of the Union artillery emplacements during the 1862 battle of Fredericksburg and is the only remaining undeveloped land adjacent to Ferry Farm, George Washington’s boyhood home. The Fund negotiated the purchase of the farm on behalf of the George Washington’s Fredericksburg Foundation, forever protecting this nationally significant place.
An easement now protects 80 acres on the battlefield where the U.S. victory marked the beginning of the economic destruction of the Shenandoah Valley.
The Conservation Fund facilitated the donation of an easement by a private landowner to protect nearly 420 acres of the battlefield at Five Forks, Virginia.
In addition, the Fund assisted the Richard King Mellon Foundation in donating 1,115 acres to the Petersburg National Battlefield at Five Forks, known as the “Waterloo of the Confederacy.”
During the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 11-15, 1862, Major General Ambrose E. Burnside ordered brigade after brigade to attack across open ground against General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates, who were protected behind strong defenses on Marye’s Heights. The Federals suffered more than 12,000 casualties in the battle and retreated back across the Rappahannock River.
The Fund purchased a key property on Marye’s Heights, made possible by the Battlefield Revolving Fund established by grants from The Gilder Foundation, and held it until the National Park Service had the funding to purchase it and add it to the park. We used the Revolving Fund again to purchase twelve acres nearby on the battlefield, which include Confederate earthworks constructed by General Pickett’s soldiers in the 1862 battle, and held them for NPS purchase and addition to the park.
In 1864 President Abraham Lincoln put Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant in command of all U. S. Forces. Grant ordered simultaneous movements against the Confederate armies in northern Virginia, Georgia, Louisiana, and the Shenandoah Valley. The Valley Campaign opened with the battle of New Market on May 14. Major General John C. Breckinridge was so outnumbered that he called cadets from the Virginia Military Institute into battle. He launched his attack down Shirley’s Hill and into the fire of Major General Franz Sigel’s cannons. Captain Henry A. du Pont protected the retreating Federals with fire from well-positioned artillery. Years later as a United States senator, he secured an appropriation that restored the VMI buildings destroyed during the war.
The Fund and its partners made possible the addition of nearly 25 acres on Shirley’s Hill to the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park. It is now in the VMI New Market Battlefield Park and Hall of Valor.
Union Camp Corporation donated 210 acres to the Fund on the site of the 1864 battle for the vital Weldon Railroad south of Petersburg.
Our Battlefield Revolving Fund enabled us to make a of $500,000 loan to the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation, which purchased 950 acres on the Trevilian Station battlefield in Louisia County, Virginia. The Trevilian Station battle was a critical one for the U.S. Armies. While General Ulysses S. Grant prepared to cross the James River to attack Petersburg, he sent General Philip H. Sheridan’s cavalry westward on the north side of the North Anna River to distract Lee. Sheridan succeeded on June 11-12, 1864, against the cavalry divisions of Generals Wade Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee.