Preservation Breakthrough at Petersburg
Hallowed Ground Magazine, Spring 2015 Issue
The Civil War Trust has long championed the restoration of the battlefields through the removal of nonhistoric structures large and small that hinder the solemn experience for visitors. Similarly, the re-establishment of wartime vegetation patterns, most often removing woodlands not present during the battle to open up key vistas, deepens our understanding of the landscape and how it shaped events. These restorations involve not just the removal of some inappropriate elements, but also the reintroduction of others — like replanting orchards and fields, reintroducing native plants and reconstructing historic fence lines.
By far, our physically largest-scale restoration project to date has centered on the Trust’s 407-acre holdings in the vicinity of the April 2, 1865, Breakthrough at Petersburg. The Trust property surrounds the National Park Service’s holdings at Fort Gregg and Fort Welch and stretches more than a half mile northeast to connect to the Breakthrough site owned by Pamplin Historical Park.
* Clear the property between NPS Ft. Welch and Pamplin Park to create a contiguous battlefield visitor experience.
* Remove timber on 160 acres, using revenues from the resulting sale to remediate the land.
* Remove all modern structures — including one home, three barns, four grain silos and a seven-acre hog farm.
* Install Interpretive trail connecting all three Breakthrough properties, plus new interpretation at Hatcher's Run Battlefield.
* Over time, expand the hay and crop farming.
This massive, multiphase effort began in the autumn of 2012, with the goal of completion in time for the 150th anniversary of the climactic battle this spring. Since then, we have removed timber on 160 acres of nonhistoric woodlands, using the revenues generated by that process to pay for the other remediation projects — notably the removal of all modern structures, including a home, three barns, four grain silos and assorted buildings associated with a seven-acre hog farm.
In recent months, the Trust has installed an interpretive trail designed to connect the battlefield landscapes owned by the three preservation entities, creating a contiguous and unified visitor experience. Moving forward, we plan to expand the currently limited hay and crop farming on Trust-owned land — a historically accurate and preservation-sensitive use of the landscape.