Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Winchester Battlefield Preserved

By Garren Shipley --

WINCHESTER -- One of the region's most significant Civil War battlefields has been preserved through a cooperative effort of government and the private sector. The Huntsberry Farm, a large part of the Middle Field of the Third Battle of Winchester, has been purchased and made part of a 567-acre battlefield park just outside Winchester.

Federal, state and local officials along with nonprofit agencies gathered on the site Friday to officially recognize the purchase of the land. The $3.35 million purchase adds 209 acres to existing preservation parcels in the area, creating a unified 567-acre battlefield park.
Congress set aside $1.23 million for the project, with the balance coming from state and local funds and funding from the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation and the Civil War Preservation Trust.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jim Webb said the battlefield purchase keeps faith with history and keeps "it alive in ways that reflect our responsibility as stewards of the history of this country," he said. Current generations have an obligation to "make sure that generations that are now coming of age and generations that will be around after we're gone understand the struggles that the country," Webb said.

Civil War preservation has its critics, he said. "Why put so much energy into preserving a place where people killed each other and had such violent activities?" Webb said. The simplest explanation, he said, can be found on the Confederate memorial in Arlington National Cemetery.
"Not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank, not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it. These men suffered all sacrificed all dared all and died," he said. "What better way to say it," he said. "This is a great place to come and remember what sacrifice is, and what it means."

Third Winchester marked the turning point of Gen. Philip Sheridan's campaign to take the Shenandoah Valley and destroy the Confederacy's agricultural heartland. In September 1864, Confederate Gen. Jubal Early's forces were spread thinly in a line stretching from Martinsburg to far up the valley. When Sheridan learned of the weak force protecting Winchester, he immediately made for the southern stronghold. But Union forces had difficulty navigating through narrow Berryville Canyon -- the current route of Va. 7 from Interstate 81 to Clarke County. The delay gave Early's forces time to prepare for the assault. The result was one of the most blood-soaked battles of the war. Some 9,000 men fell during the battle.