Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Preservation Trust Works to Save Portion of Chancellorsville Battlefield

Trust targets historic parcel

Preservation group hopes to preserve another 85 acres at Chancellorsville
Date published: 11/17/2009

A key piece of the Chancellorsville Battlefield associated with Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's 1863 flank attack is the next acquisition target of a Civil War preservation group.

The Civil War Preservation Trust yesterday announced a $2.1 million campaign to buy 85 acres, known as the Wagner Tract, along State Route 3 east of Wilderness Church.

The property includes 2,000 feet of frontage on the north shoulder of historic Orange Plank Road and lies within Chancellorsville Battlefield.

There, on May 2, 1863, Jackson led the flanking maneuver during bloody fighting that turned the tide of the battle in favor of the South.

"This land is arguably one of the most historically significant pieces of hallowed ground CWPT has ever saved, and we have just got to get it," said James Lighthizer, the organization's president.

Historian Robert K. Krick said yesterday that preservationists have been talking to Frank Wagner, a Fredericksburg veterinarian, for several years about acquiring the land.

"This is a big one. I'm prone to say this is the second-most-important [battlefield] land in the country" behind a tract on the Richmond battlefield, Krick said.

"We've taken the initiative because this is so stunningly important."

Timing is crucial, CWPT spokesman Jim Campi added. The Washington, D.C.-based preservation group is seeking $708,300 from the Virginia Civil War Historic Site Preservation Fund which expires in December.

CWPT hopes for another $500,000 from the federal Transportation Enhancement Program.

The remainder will come from donations from CWPT members.

The trust has preserved other significant land at Chancellorsville, including 215 acres where the battle raged on its opening day. The purchase price for that was $4 million.

The Battle of Chancellorsville began May 1, 1863, and lasted almost three days. It was considered Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's greatest victory.

Lee divided his army in the face of superior Union forces, sending Jackson on his 12-mile flanking march around the Army of the Potomac. After the Confederate rout of the Union 11th Corps, Jackson was accidentally shot by his own men and died five days later.

The Fredericksburg area has been a prime focus for CWPT's preservation efforts.

Three years ago, in its biggest purchase ever, CWPT bought Slaughter Pen Farm for $12 million. The 216 acres east of Fredericksburg on Tidewater Trail links critical components of the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Other major CWPT acquisitions in Virginia: 1,708 acres at Trevilian Station in Louisa County, for $1.9 million; Glendale in Henrico County, 566 acres for $5.6 million; Third Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley, 431 acres, $5.8 million.

With 55,000 members, the Civil War Preservation Trust is the nation's largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization.

It has preserved more than 28,000 acres of battlefield land, including 13,500 acres in Virginia.

CWPT is currently engaged in active fundraising efforts to save significant battlefield land at Appomattox Station, Glendale, Fredericksburg and the Wilderness.