For Immediate Release: 07/20/11
Manassas Sesquicentennial Commemoration Begins with Preservation of 54 Acres of Hallowed Ground
One day prior to 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s first major battle, the Civil War Trust announces private-public partnership to preserve 54 acres on Manassas battlefield
(Manassas, Va.) – At a news conference this morning, the Civil War Trust joined with the National Park Service, Commonwealth of Virginia, Prince William County and Service Corporation International to announce the preservation of 54 acres of hallowed ground at Manassas National Battlefield Park. The announcement comes one day prior to the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas, raising the curtain of the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War’s first major battle.
“Commemorating such an important date with the protection of this critical battlefield land perfectly encapsulates the mission of the Civil War Trust,” said James Lighthizer, the organization’s president. “Setting aside these hallowed grounds for the education and enjoyment of future generations will be a lasting legacy of the sesquicentennial.”
Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service (NPS) concurred, noting that: “Today we celebrate not only the preservation efforts at one of our nation’s most significant historical parks, but also the type of outstanding partnerships that enable our National Parks to thrive.”
Today’s news conference marks the culmination of two outstanding preservation efforts at Manassas. The first was the preservation of 44 acres of battlefield land owned by Service Corporation International (SCI); of that land, 34 acres were donated outright to the Trust, with the remainder to be held in easement by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech emphasized that the project met all of the goals for the Commonwealth’s land preservation initiatives: “Not only does this land provide the opportunity for increased public education and environmental protection, but it will contribute to the enhancement of heritage tourism — and therefore economic opportunity — across the region.”
Additionally, the event marked the ceremonial transfer of 10 acres of battlefield land previously purchased by the Civil War Trust into Manassas National Battlefield Park. Taken together the various projects amount to a preservation coup for the Park, according to superintendent Ed Clark.
“These properties are among the Park’s top preservation priorities. Knowing that these battlefield lands will be protected in perpetuity is a remarkable way to begin the anniversary commemoration here at Manassas,” he said.
The highlight of the announcement was the preservation of the SCI tract, located north of Stonewall Memorial Cemetery and known historically as the Dogan Farm. It was long presumed that the ground, valued at well over $1 million, would be developed for commercial purposes. However, the Trust worked closely with SCI and federal, state and local officials to arrange for the sale of the land for just $100,000, contingent on the land eventually becoming part of the park – a stipulation to which the Trust was happy to agree.
Greg Sangalis, vice president of and chief counsel of SCI, stressed that his company is honored to be a part of sesquicentennial preservation efforts. “Working with the National Park Service, Virginia officials, Prince William County and the Civil War Trust to ensure that this land will be protected forever fits perfectly with SCI’s commitment to preserving memories that transcend generations. There can be no doubt that this is truly hallowed ground.”
The Trust also announced the ceremonial transfer of two properties totaling 10 acres to NPS. The properties, known locally as the Smith and Gray Tracts, were purchased by the Civil War Trust in 2010 with matching grants from the Virginia Department of Historic Resource’s Civil War Sites Preservation Fund, administered by the state’s Department of Historic Resources, and a major gift from the estate of lifelong Civil War enthusiast Karl M. Lehr, via the Civil War Round Table of Eastern Pennsylvania. Each is surrounded by Park land; the larger of these two parcels is located nearly adjacent to the SCI donation and the other is located off of Sudley Road, modern Route 234.
While a notable landmark the First Battle of Manassas, the land around the Dogan Farm also played a pivotal role in Second Battle of Manassas, fought over much of the same ground in August 1862. A Union assault that traversed the SCI property and the Gray tract toward the “Deep Cut” of an unfinished railroad was so bloody and intense that participants likened it to the “vortex of hell,” with one Federal survivor writing that “the slope was swept by a hurricane of death.” Confederate success in this area carried the battle, which prompted Gen. Robert E. Lee to launch his first invasion of the North, a campaign that culminated with the Battle of Antietam.
In addition to the Manassas property, the Trust is currently engaged in active fundraising efforts to save significant battlefield properties at Bentonville, N.C., Franklin, Tenn., Fredericksburg, Va., Gaines’ Mill and Cold Harbor, Va., Gettysburg, Pa., and the Wilderness, Va. To learn more about current fundraising projects and the Trust’s ambitious sesquicentennial preservation effort, Campaign 150: Our Time, Our Legacy, please visit www.civilwar.org/campaign150.
The Civil War Trust 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. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 30,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.