For Immediate Release: 11/16/09
National Battlefield Group Announces Ambitious Plan to Preserve Hallowed Ground at Chancellorsville
Land was scene of heavy fighting during “Stonewall” Jackson’s legendary flanking maneuver
(Chancellorsville, Va.) – The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), America’s largest nonprofit battlefield preservation group, has announced the beginning of a $2.125 million national campaign to preserve one of the most historically significant unprotected landscapes of the entire Civil War. The 85-acre property, known locally as the Wagner Tract, was the scene of bloody struggle during the battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863. It was here on that fateful day that Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson led his legendary flanking maneuver on May 2, 1863 that turned the tide of battle in favor of the South.
Despite the high price tag and difficult economic climate, CWPT president James Lighthizer found the choice to pursue the property an easy one. “This land at Chancellorsville is arguably one of the most historically significant pieces of hallowed ground CWPT has ever saved, and we have just got to get it,” he said. “Just like our purchase of the Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg three years ago, this is what we are in business to do. This is why we exist!”
Prominent historian Robert K. Krick vehemently agreed with Lighthizer’s assessment, not only because of the land’s historic pedigree, but for its overall contribution toward protection of the Chancellorsville Battlefield. “The preservation coup by CWPT in acquiring 85 acres in the midst of the Stonewall Jackson’s flank attack deserves universal applause as a spectacular success. The Wagner tract, just east of Wilderness Church, includes nearly 2,000 feet of frontage on the north shoulder of the historic Orange Plank Road. Extinguishing the potential for dense commercial use along that long stretch seems to me to constitute the most dazzling jewel in the CWPT’s long and impressive history of preserving hallowed ground.”
Timing of the effort is particularly auspicious because it allows preservationists to take advantage of a limited window of availability to receive state funding toward the venture. Through the end of 2009, projects in the Old Dominion are eligible to participate in a 2-to-1 matching grant program for Civil War battlefield protection. This is in addition to federal matching grants available to preserve historic battlefield land outside of national parks, leaving CWPT to raise less than half the purchase price from private donations. But in order to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity, the transaction must be closed in the next two months.
In recognition of the immense historic value of the property, CWPT is offering a unique opportunity to those interested in contributing to this worthwhile fundraising effort. Each individual or organization that donates more than $100 to the acquisition effort will be acknowledged on a permanent plaque that will be installed on the battlefield site. Successively larger donations will also be appropriately differentiated as an additional expression of gratitude. Those interested in contributing to the fundraising campaign are encouraged to visit CWPT’s website at http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/chancellorsville/chancellorsville-2009/
The Battle of Chancellorsville is universally acknowledged as one of the most critical engagements of the Civil War. Outnumbered Confederate forces scored a stunning victory when Gen. Robert E. Lee divided his army in the face of a superior enemy, sending Stonewall Jackson on an audacious 12-mile flanking march around the Army of the Potomac. With his movements disguised by cavalry operations and dense woodlands, Jackson was able to launch a full scale attack on the unsuspecting Union Eleventh Corps, which largely fled before the onslaught.
The assault and ensuing rout was one of the greatest tactical victories of the war, but its aftermath was devastating for the Confederacy. The triumphant Jackson rode out past the Confederate position, scouting whether he could press his advantage and do further damage to the Union Army with a nighttime attack. Returning to his lines, Jackson and his staff were misidentified as Union cavalry by troops on the picket line and came under friendly fire; Jackson was strike three times, resulting in the amputation of his left arm. Although the surgery was a success, he contracted pneumonia and, in a staggering blow to the Confederacy, died a week later.
CWPT has previously preserved other key portions of the Chancellorsville battlefield, including 215 acres that were the scene of the strategically crucial fighting along the Orange Turnpike on May 1, 1863. Now interpreted and open to the public as the First Day at Chancellorsville battlefield park, the site has become a popular historic destination in the region. The organization has also participated in the protection of two other locations on the battlefield, including 16 additional acres associated with Stonewall Jackson’s flank attack.
In addition to the Wagner property at Chancellorsville, CWPT is currently engaged in active fundraising efforts to save significant battlefield properties at Appomattox Station, Glendale, Fredericksburg and the Wilderness. To learn more about these and future opportunities, visit www.civilwar.org/take-action/save-a-battlefield.
With 55,000 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. CWPT has preserved more than 28,000 acres of battlefield land across the nation, including 13,500 acres in Virginia and approximately 315 acres at Chancellorsville. CWPT’s website is www.civilwar.org.
(For more information about the campaign to protect this portion of the Chancellorsville Battlefield, including a map showing the property, visit www.civilwar.org/chancellorsville09)