More of the land west of Chancellorsville—scene of Stonewall Jackson’s flank attack—is now being preserved thanks to the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT).
The Trust has just signed a contract to purchase 9.2 acres on the southern shoulder of the Orange Turnpike (modern Route 3), with more than 350 feet of frontage on that crucial historic corridor.
When Jackson’s powerful surprise attack burst out of the Wilderness against the Federal right flank on May 2, 1863, it struck General O. O. Howard’s Eleventh Corps. Just east of Howard, an entire Union army corps—the Third, under Dan Sickles—had vacated its place in the line to lunge southward toward Catharine Furnace. As Jackson smashed Howard’s position, the routed Yankees fled eastward and retreated into the vacuum where Sickles had been.
A brave rally perpendicular to the Orange Turnpike, east of Wilderness Church, took the name of its ranking officer and became known as “The Buschbeck Line. After the collapse of Buschbeck’s rally point, those Yankees also retreated across the ground now being targeted by the CVBT.
After dark on May 2, the renowned Stonewall Brigade arrived at this same location to prepare for the next day’s attack. The five Virginia regiments had been immune to almost all of the rigors and dangers of May 2 because they had been guarding the Orange Plank Road. By 11 p.m., the brigade went into camp for the night—the last night on earth for a painful number of the men. On May 3, they would face a dreadful combat ordeal; soon after dawn, they advanced eastward into a maelstrom that left nearly half of them casualties.
General Henry Heth’s Virginia brigade also spent the night of May 2-3 in the vicinity of CVBT’s new tract. Heth’s regiments included the 40th and 47th Virginia, made up of men from the Fredericksburg area.
The parcel, which we have designated as the Stonewall Brigade Tract, is the first land preserved on the south side of the Orange Turnpike from Wilderness Church east to the National Park Service visitor center. It lies less than one mile from our recent thirteen-acre Rhodes-Doles acquisition and other Flank Attack properties totaling fifty-eight acres.
The purchase price, including closing fees and other associated costs, is $264,400 and includes a residential structure that CVBT will eventually demolish. As usual, we have been able to assemble a very attractive financing package to cover a sizable portion of the acquisition. Our good friends at the Civil War Trust have pledged $63,750. We will seek a federal grant of $132,200. CVBT will need to raise $68,450. As a result of these other sources of funding, we estimate that every $1 donors give will result in $4 for the project! CVBT is scheduled to close on the property by the end of this year.