Civil War Preservation Group Working to Save 93 Acres of Wilderness Battlefield From Development

A historic preservation group has obtained an option to buy 93 acres of the historic Wilderness Battlefield near Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. The land includes the original intersection of the Germanna Plank Road and Orange Turnpike. NPS photo of the Germanna Plank Road.

In the wake of the decision by Virginia planning officials to allow Wal-Mart to build a Supercenter on hallowed ground next to Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park comes word that a nearby 93-acre plot on the historic Wilderness Battlefield is on its way to being purchased by a historic preservation group.

The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust earlier this month obtained an option to purchase the land, which lies only about a mile from where Wal-Mart wants to build its store, and now begins the work of raising the money to close the deal.

“The ‘option’ is a contract to purchase the land,” according to CVBT President Erik F. Nelson, who was quoted in a story for Civil War News. “We’ve locked in the price. We have a closing date within a year. This gives us the opportunity to do a certain amount of fund-raising during the year. The funds raised will in effect be a down payment which will reduce the size of the mortgage CVBT will have to take out on the property. It’s an opportunity to reduce the price between then and now."

Mr. Nelson also told the publication that there might be state grants for Civil War land preservation as the sesquicentennial anniversary of the war approaches.

The tract's owners, Phillip Atkins and his brother, John Atkins III, asked $930,000 for the acreage.

“We’ve been talking to the Atkinses for several years. We started talking to them again just recently and they were amenable to making a deal, so that’s how it came about,” Mr. Richardson told Civil War News. The brothers preferred “having the property saved rather than developed as a commercial or residential tract,” according to Mr. Richardson.

The CVBT has always been receptive to buying the Atkins-Link property, Mr. Nelson said, “but with the Wal-Mart thing going on, we realized we really needed to move now.”

The publication reports that the plot includes the "the original Wilderness crossroads" where the Germanna Plank Road and Orange Turnpike met.

These were roads “used by a huge portion of the Union Army as they moved into the Wilderness in May 1864,” according to Mr. Nelson. “This land is truly the historic gateway to the Wilderness.”

He said the Atkins-Link parcel would give the National Park Service (NPS) the option, if they want to pursue it, “to establish an entirely new entry way into the Wilderness.”

Today’s gateway to the Wilderness battlefield is through the intersection of modern State Routes 3 and 20 where the CVBT already owns 19 acres of ground comprising the knoll where U.S. Grant had his headquarters. In its 13 years of operation, the CVBT has saved over 890 acres of Civil War battlefields.

Nelson described how a different gateway could possibly be created to take battlefield tourists directly from State Route 3 to the original Wilderness crossroads (on the Atkins-Link tract) and away from the modern State Routes 3 & 20 intersection that may end up tainted by the presence of the huge new store Wal-Mart wants to build there.

“It has strong possibilities,” Nelson said, but added, “We’re talking very long-term here.”

To help CVBT afford the purchase, you can donate at www.cvbt.org.