McDonnell announces battlefield preservation grants

With the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War now into its second year and attracting visitors to the Commonwealth from around the nation, Gov. Bob McDonnell announced 11 state grant awards to organizations working to conserve historic battlefield lands for present and future generations of Americans.

The grant awards are drawn from the Civil War Historic Sites Preservation Fund that McDonnell and the General Assembly permanently established in 2010. Funds for the grants, this year totaling up to $2,620,500, will be awarded by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which determines the awards based on a rigorous evaluation process.

This year’s awards will provide vital assistance in protecting more than 2,792 total acres associated with battles at Appomattox, Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Cool Spring, Kelly’s Ford, Peebles Farm, Port Republic, and Second Manassas.

The grant recipients include the Civil War Trust, the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. These organizations will match state funds dollar for dollar either to purchase lands approved as part of the awards process or to obtain easement rights on the tracts. All awards will result in the donation of perpetual easements to the Virginia Board of Historic Resources.

“Virginia is a premier destination for tourists from around the nation and the world, thanks to our legacy of renowned historic sites, including those connected with the American Civil War,” said McDonnell in announcing the awards. “By preserving battlefields through public and private partnerships, we save hallowed ground and honor the Commonwealth’s past while we simultaneously make an investment in its future through heritage tourism.”

Battlefield lands that will be protected through the grants are geographically and militarily diverse and include sites of significant Union and Confederate victories. They cover farmlands, wetlands, and woodlands and range from the mountainous northern and central Shenandoah Valley to the rolling hills of the Piedmont and to the flat coastal plain of south central Virginia.

“I can think of no more appropriate way to honor our brave ancestors who fought in the Civil War than to set aside the physical landscapes where that conflict was decided,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech. “In addition to their educational benefits, these battlefields are also environmental resources consisting of open spaces, working farms and forests, and wetland that offer habitats for fish and wildlife,” said Domenech.

“Protecting battlefield lands goes towards Governor McDonnell’s commitment to conserving 400,000 new acres of open space and scenic rural lands in Virginia,” Domenech added.

In awarding the grants, the Department of Historic Resources based its evaluations in part on each battlefield’s significance as determined by the Congressionally-commissioned “Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields” originally issued in 1993 and subsequently updated, including a 2009 update on Virginia battlefields. Other factors considered by the department included the proximity of each parcel to other protected lands; the threat of loss due to encroaching development, and the potential for education, recreation, research, or heritage tourism, among other factors.

“The Sesquicentennial of the Civil War offers Virginia an opportunity to pass forward a great legacy, namely the conservation of open space, natural resources, and historic hallowed ground of national significance through the protection of battlefields,” said Kathleen S. Kilpatrick, director of the Department of Historic Resources.

“The Department of Historic Resources looks forward to securing that legacy through the support and leadership of Gov. McDonnell and the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission, which is chaired by Speaker of the House William J. Howell,” Kilpatrick said.

“This year’s awards will allow us to secure places with the power to connect us and future generations to the lessons of a defining period of our history,” said Kilpatrick. “Time is running out. Each year, battlefield lands are lost forever.”


Civil War Battlefield Grant Awards 2012

Appomattox Court House Battlefield, Appomattox County:

Preserved Property: Webb Tract (49 acres)

Sponsor: Civil War Trust

In this final engagement of the war, on April 8, 1865 Gen. Robert E. Lee bivouacked near the village of Appomattox Courthouse, while nearby Union troops converged. The last Confederate offensive on April 9 initially gained ground, but the arrival of Union infantry stopped the advance and Lee found himself surrounded on three sides. Lee’s formal surrender took place the following day.


Cedar Mountain Battlefield, Culpeper County:

Preserved Property: Broomfield Tract (4 acres) and Proctor Tract (6 acres)

Sponsor: Civil War Trust

During this battle on August 9, 1862, which resulted in a Confederate victory, Union Maj. Gen. John Pope’s forces tangled with Confederate Maj. Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson’s troops, gaining an early advantage. The Confederate army counterattacked, however, and drove the Union army north. As a result, fighting in Virginia shifted away from the Peninsula and into northern Virginia, giving Lee an early tactical advantage.


Chancellorsville Battlefield, Spotsylvania County:

Preserved Property: Charles Link Trust Tract (81.69)

Sponsor: Central Virginia Battlefields Trust

Chancellorsville was fought near the village of Spotsylvania Courthouse from April 30 to May 6, 1863, raging along present-day Route 3 and the farmland to either side. The battle, pitting Union Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s forces against Gen. Robert E. Lee’s, “is arguably the most important Civil War battlefield in Virginia,” according to historian John S. Salmon. “It is the site of Lee’s greatest victory and of [Gen. “Stonewall”] Jackson’s mortal wounding, and it had greater consequences for the Confederacy than any other battle fought on Virginia soil,” writes Salmon in The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide. The battle is notable for Lee’s counter-intuitive decision to divide his smaller army (of roughly 60,000) prior to attacking Hooker’s larger force (of more than 133,000). Lee’s daring plan and Hooker’s timid response led to a Confederate victory.


Cool Spring Battlefield, Clarke County:

Preserved Properties: Textron Financial (195 acres) and Holy Cross Abbey Tract (955 acres)

Sponsor: Civil War Trust

Fought July 17-18, 1864, this battle resulted in a Confederate victory. Union troops under Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright pursued Confederate troops under Lt. Gen. Jubal Early as they fled following an unsuccessful attempt to take Washington, DC. Union troops forded the Shenandoah River to engage the Confederate army, which held its ground until the Union army withdrew under cover of darkness. The battle delayed the Union army’s pursuit of Early’s forces for several days, allowing the Confederates to regroup in Winchester.


Kelly’s Ford Battlefield, Culpeper County:

Preserved Property: Triple S Tract (964 acres)

Sponsor: Civil War Trust

Kelly’s Ford, fought on March 17, 1863, was an inconclusive battle for both sides. Union cavalry under Brig. Gen. William Averell forded the Rappahannock River to attack Confederate cavalry under Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee. Lee’s forces counterattacked, but lost Maj. Gen. John “Gallant” Pelham to an exploding artillery shell. Union forces retreated across the river without either side obtaining clear victory. It was one of the largest cavalry battles of the war, and set the stage for the battle of Brandy Station and the Gettysburg Campaign.


Manassas II Battlefield, Loudoun County:

Preserved Property: Wotring Tract / Gen. Longstreet’s Line (2.99 acres)

Sponsor:  Civil War Trust

The Battle of Second Manassas, fought August 28-30, 1862, was a decisive victory in Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Northern Virginia Campaign against the Union’s Army of Virginia under the command of Maj. Gen. John Pope. The battle marked the height of Confederate power and opened the way for the first Confederate campaign in the North and involved forces under Confederate generals James Longstreet, “Stonewall” Jackson, A.P. Hill, Richard S. Ewell, and William B. Taliaferro, among others. During the battle, Pope’s forces mounted a sustained attack against Jackson’s men, who were entrenched along an unfinished rail line. Upon the arrival of reinforcements under Longstreet, the Confederate army launched the single largest mass attack of the Civil War (known as “Longstreet’s Line”), which crushed the Union army and sent it into retreat.


Peebles Farm Battlefield, Dinwiddie County:

Preserved Property: Dear Tract (19.3 acres)

Sponsor: Civil War Trust

The Battle of Peebles’ Farm, fought Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 1864, resulted from Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s attempt to extend his army’s left flank at Petersburg and cut the Confederate army’s last rail link into Petersburg from the west. Union forces overran Confederate positions on the southern Petersburg defensive line, resisted a counterattack by Confederate Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill, and captured Fort MacRae. While the battle allowed Grant to extend his lines significantly, Confederates were able to protect the vital South Side Railroad.


Port Republic Battlefield, Rockingham County:

Preserved Properties: Prillaman Farm (92 acres) and Heatwole Tract (424 acres)

Sponsor: Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation

Fought on June 9, 1862, during this battle forces under the command of Confederate Maj. Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson repulsed multiple Union attacks, ultimately forcing the Union army into retreat. It resulted in giving Jackson and the Confederate army undisputed control of the upper and middle Shenandoah Valley.

Augusta Health Kris McMackin CPA
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