An open letter to the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors, who will consider tomorrow evening a proposal to preserve a portion of the Chancellorsville battlefield in exchange for zoning concessions
It might seem hyperbolic to say that Spotsylvania County supervisors have the opportunity “to make history” tomorrow night when they consider a rezoning proposal that would preserve a significant portion of the Chancellorsville battlefield. Such assertions can sound like quaint exaggerations or pithy catchphrases–but in this case, it is quite literally true.
The Chancellorsville battlefield itself is our greatest resource for understanding the battle–and in doing so, understanding our own history. What gets preserved and what gets lost affects what stories historians get to tell, and that in turn affects what people remember about those events. Land is tied to history. The shape of the battlefield affects the shape of the story. (For more on that, see my recent Emerging Civil War series “Shaping Chancellorsville.”)
Having co-authored several books about the battle of Chancellorsville, I am particularly sensitive to how this process works. Living on the edge of the Chancellorsville battlefield has also made me sensitive to it. On the first day of battle, E. Porter Alexander deployed his Confederate artillery on land that eventually became my front yard. I am intimately tied to this this story through this landscape.
The proposal that Spotsylvania County supervisors will consider–“The Legends of Chancellorsville” proposal–is another tremendous win-win-win compromise that preserves a piece of land crucial for understanding the battle of Chancellorsville. The developer, preservationists, and the county all stand to gain–and in the end, the public and posterity will be the true beneficiaries.
The Silver Companies and The Civil War Trust should both be lauded for the spirit of cooperation that has made this deal possible. I hope Spotsylvania County supervisors will join in that same spirit of cooperation. In doing so, they will literally make history.
Chris Mackowski, Ph.D.
Chancellors Pond Lane
Managing Editor, Emerging Civil War
Co-author of That Furious Struggle: Chancellorsville and the High Tide of the Confederacy; The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson; and Chancellorsville’s Forgotten Front: The Battles of Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church