Civil War Preservation Trust Saves 49 Acres of "Wilderness Battlefield" From Development

A fund-raising drive to save 49 acres surrounded by Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park from development has succeeded. CWPT photo.

A campaign to forever save from development a nearly 50-acre parcel of Virgina land that witnessed pitched fighting during the Civil War has succeeded. The land eventually will be turned over to the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, which surrounds the acreage.

“Saving critically important landscapes like this is precisely why this organization exists,” said Civil War Preservation Trust President James Lighthizer. “Generations of Americans will now have the opportunity to walk this hallowed landscape and gain a fuller understanding of the horrors of war experienced by the soldiers fighting in the Wilderness.”

On May 5 and 6, 1864, the land known as Saunders Field, today surrounded by the military park, was the backdrop for fevered fighting waged both close and yet at times blindly at what has become known as the Wilderness Battlefield, according to reports made by those involved.

As for the Wilderness, it was uneven, with woods, thickets, and ravines right and left. Tangled thickets of pine, scrub-oak, and cedar prevented our seeing the enemy, and prevented any one in command of a large force from determining accurately the position of the troops he was ordering to and fro. The appalling rattle of the musketry, the yells of the enemy, and the cheers of our own men were constantly in our ears. At times, our lines while firing could not see the array of the enemy, not fifty yards distant. After the battle was fairly begun, both sides were protected by log or earth breastworks. -- Alexander S. Webb, Brevet Major-General, U.S.A.

The owner of the 49 acres located just north of State Route 20 last year agreed to sell the land to the Civil War trust for just more than $1 million, but with a year-end deadline. Earlier this month the trust announced that it had raised the necessary funds for the purchase.

The terms of the acquisition contract placed the purchase price at $1,085,000, if closing occurred before the end of 2010. While the transaction will be finalized in 2011, a year-end fund-raising surge provided the trust with enough in donations and firm pledges to cover the base price and a $12,000 per month extension fee, CWPT officials said.

“I would personally like to thank everyone who stepped forward this holiday season to give a gift to the nation by donating in any amount, large or small,” Mr. Lighthizer said in a release. “Several contributors indicated to me they considered this property so historically significant that they made multiple donations to the effort.”