Saving Jericho Mills at the North Anna River

Jericho Ford
Jericho Ford

Some great news from our friends at the Civil War Trust: They announced this week a major initiative to preserve more than 600 acres of the North Anna battlefield.

“This is one of the largest parcels of historic battlefield land we have ever attempted to secure at one time” CWT President Jim Lighthizer told ECW. “In fact, only two fee-simple land purchases in Trust history have been larger:  685 at Mine Run, Va., in 2002; and 939 acres now owned by the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation in 2004. To put it into perspective, the North Anna property is three times larger than the crucial land we saved at Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg in 2006 (665 acres vs. 208 acres).” 

For complete details on the project, here’s the CWT’s press release:

Ox Ford at the North Anna River, downriver from Jericho Mills
Ox Ford at the North Anna River, downriver from Jericho Mills

(Doswell, Va.) – The Civil War Trust, America’s largest nonprofit battlefield preservation group, today announced a$3.14 million national fundraising campaign to preserve 665 acres at North Anna, representing the entirety of the May 23, 1864 combat area at Jericho Mill.  While an array of matching grant funding will be applied to the purchase, the Trust must complete private sector fundraising and close on the property by August 13, 2014. This pristine landscape, which includes more than two miles worth of North Anna River frontage and original Civil War structures, is currently vulnerable to residential development. It is expected that most of the property will eventually be conveyed to the National Park Service for inclusion in Richmond National Battlefield Park.

“In all my years working to save our country’s endangered battlefields, to my recollection we have never before had the opportunity to save literally an entire battlefield, especially one as important as North Anna, in one transaction.” said Civil War Trust president James Lighthizer. “No small tracts, puzzle pieces or doughnut holes here; if we move quickly, we will save the entire battlefield in one fell swoop!”

The $3.14 million price tag makes the campaign to protect North Anna’s Jericho Mill one of the 10 most ambitious private battlefield purchases in the Trust’s history.  However, thanks to the availability of matching grants from the American Battlefield Protection Program and Commonwealth of Virginia, plus generous private foundations, major donors and National Park Service inholding acquisition money, the Trust has lined up 90 percent of the purchase price before soliciting donations from its members.  This means each dollar contributed at this stage of the fundraising campaign will be multiplied ten-fold. This final $314,000, however, must be raised by August 13, 2014 in order to meet the terms of the purchase contract.

The preservation push includes land on both sides of the North Anna River, including the ruins of Jericho Mill itself, site of the Union pontoon bridges. In his 1935 biography of Lee, historian Douglas Southall Freeman called this area, known historically as the Fontaine Farm, “one of the most picturesque spots on all the battlegrounds of Virginia.” Today, that beauty remains, as do traces of the access road fashioned by Federal engineers, and artillery pits dug by Yankee gunners.

The Battle of North Anna was a key moment of the 1864 Overland Campaign, halfway between the slaughter at Spotsylvania Court House and the carnage of Cold Harbor. On May 23, Union forces laid a pontoon bridge across that river at Jericho Mill, allowing infantry and artillery to cross in pursuit of the Southern army. Fierce fighting raged throughout the day, with 1,100 men falling as casualties.  As evening descended, the Confederates were unable to dislodge the Union boys from their now-entrenched beachhead, causing Gen. Robert E. Lee — who had missed the action due to illness — to complain to his subordinate Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill, “Why did you let those people cross here? Why didn’t you throw your whole force on them and drive them back as Jackson would have done?” Learn more about the Battle of North Anna at

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, it has preserved more than 38,500 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, including 90 at North Anna and 20,500 in Virginia. Learn more at, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.

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Learn more about the CWT’s fund-raising initiative at North Anna.


2 Responses to Saving Jericho Mills at the North Anna River

  1. What a surprise as I follow the information about Jericho Mills and the North Anna River transaction that is taking place in Hanover County and Carolina County. I live in Florida now.

    My father, Capt. Cecil G. McKinney and his wife, Eleanor Cooper McKinney purchased the property back in, I believe, August-October 1946. I don’t have the contract now in front of me, who they purchased it from, a name like “Pursie”. At least it started with a ‘P”. It was 617 + acres, give or take! My father had always wanted a farm, since he was in his teens from Walla Walla, Washington. He attended the US Naval Academy, from 1917 to 1920. He died Jan. 20. 1960 of cancer and my mother died Feb. 1994. My brother, Charles received the land and eventually it was put into a Corporation, and when he died his 5 children became owners. Yes, we knew of the land’s history and Fontaine’s ownership and at one time the ownership of the Fontaine ‘s Beverdam farm by Jacque Varkintines {sp} from Russia during the late 40’s early 50’s. He became a friend of my parents.

    One of my husbands ashes, with a Episcopal service (the minister was from Fort Episcopal Church) was held on the banks of the North Anna River in July of 1993.

    I have not talked with my nephews for a number of years and assume they are the sellers now to the Foundation that is purchasing the property.

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