For Immediate Release: 06/21/00
Civil War Preservation Trust Rescues Stonewall Jackson Battlefield at Cross Keys
(Cross Keys, Va.) - 138 years after Stonewall Jackson's legendary "foot cavalry" achieved a spectacular victory at the small tavern town of Cross Keys, the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) has scored an equally important victory for the cause of battlefield preservation. With the help of a family from nearby Port Republic, CWPT has rescued the Widow Pence farm - a crucial parcel located in the heart of Cross Keys battlefield.
"The Widow Pence farm is a Civil War enthusiast's dream," remarked CWPT President James Lighthizer. "Few battlefields remain that so closely resemble conditions as they existed during the war." Historian and author Robert Krick calls the acquisition "a real triumph for the preservation of Stonewall Jackson sites."
In mid-May, when the present-day owners of the farm announced their intention to auction off the 51-acre tract, CWPT expressed interest in preserving the property. To acquire the farm, CWPT approached local conservationists Dr. and Mrs. Irvin Hess to contribute half of the eventual $288,000 purchase price for the land.
Irvin and Nancy Hess deserve much credit for coming to the aid of CWPT," Lighthizer noted. "Without their generosity and support, the farm and its historic character may have been lost forever." Dr. Hess called the purchase "an unique opportunity to save a national treasure. I was thrilled to be a part of it."
Under the terms of the agreement, the Widow Pence farmhouse will become the home of the Hess family in exchange for public access and historic interpretation of the site. The property will have an easement placed on it, restricting future alterations and construction on the tract. The farmhouse is believed to be the only structure at Cross Keys that existed at the time of the battle.
Cross Keys and Port Republic marked the dramatic finale of Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's famed Shenandoah Valley Campaign. The campaign not only sealed Jackson's reputation as an exceptional battlefield commander, but also helped prevent Union reinforcements from descending on the Confederate capital at Richmond.
Krick, whose book Conquering the Valley is considered the authoritative source on Cross Keys, describes the fighting on the Widow Pence farm as "the hottest single action in the battle." The fighting on Sarah Pence's farm pitted the butternuts of Brig. Gen. Isaac Trimble's brigade against the inexperienced 8th New York Volunteers. The New Yorkers suffered more than 50 percent casualties in the resulting clash.
With 35,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds through education and heritage tourism.