In the fall of 1864, Union Gen. Philip Sheridan was sent to the Shenandoah Valley to bring an end to Confederate control of the area. Uncertain of the size of Confederate Gen. Jubal Early’s army, and unwilling to risk a politically disastrous defeat, Sheridan was cautious at first.
Early mistakenly believed that Sheridan’s caution reflected a lack of aggressiveness, and felt safe in dividing his forces between Winchester and Martinsburg to wreck the B&O railroad. Learning of Early’s risky maneuvers, and that one of Early’s divisions had left for Richmond, Sheridan moved to attack, but his slow advance through the narrow Berryville Canyon gave Early time to concentrate his forces – setting the stage for the epic, day-long, war-changing Third Battle of Winchester on September 19, 1864.
The Huntsberry property was at the center of much of the day’s fighting. The portion north of Red Bud Run was the site of key Confederate and Union artillery positions, and a Union flanking maneuver that helped push the Confederates back to their final line. The southern portion contains parts of the First Woods and Middle Field, where the fighting was so intense, and so costly, that it was later called “that basin of Hell.” The Middle Field witnessed more than 3,000 casualties.
In 2009, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation tackled the largest preservation project it had ever attempted, the 209-acre Huntsberry Farm on the Third Winchester Battlefield. Straddling Red Bud Run, the fields looked much the same as they did on the day of the battle. South of Red Bud Run, the parcel included part of the Middle Field, where some of the fiercest back and forth fighting in the battle took place. The land was for sale, and a prime location for development. With a sale price of $3.35 Million, preserving it was a big risk, but a risk that had to be taken.
With grant funding and the help of the American Battlefield Trust, Frederick County, the James R. Wilkins Charitable Trust, and donors like you, the Foundation was able to raise $2.8 Million. The remaining $550,000 was covered by a bank loan. What at one time seemed impossible was now a reality; the SVBF owned the vulnerable 209-acres in the core of the Third Winchester Battlefield.
But the work was not done. The Foundation now had to pay off the loan with no other major help in sight. Over the years, SVBF has been making payments on the loan and made great progress. But at the current pace it will take over 10 more years of payments of $35,000 per year to pay off the loan. That’s 10 years of funds that could be used in other important and much-needed areas. That’s why SVBF is working to pay off this debt. You can help complete this amazing project and strengthen their ability to do even more of the great preservation work.
The 209-acres of the Huntsberry Farm make up the largest area of land, of the largest battlefield park in the Valley, where the largest battle in the Valley was fought. The events that took place on Huntsberry Farm are essential parts of the history of the Third Battle of Winchester. But the history of this property is not fully written. The next chapter is currently underway, and with your contribution, you can be a part of its preservation story.
For more historic details about Huntsberry Farm, click here to read the PDF.
To donate to Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation’s Huntsberry Farm preservation efforts, click here.