Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund will help preserve more than 500 acres of hallowed ground at 10 Virginia historic sites
This week the Virginia Department of Historic Resources announced it will award $1.15 million in state grants to protect battlefield land at 10 battlefields in the Old Dominion.
The grants will come from the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund, a state program that has helped nonprofit organizations protect more than 8,500 acres of hallowed ground throughout the Commonwealth. The first of its kind in the nation, the fund helps save sites from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. This year’s grants will be awarded to two of the state’s most active nonprofit partners in battlefield preservation — the American Battlefield Trust and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.
The nonprofit groups will use the state money, leveraged with federal grant funds and private donations, to protect more than 562 acres at nine Civil War battlefields and the Revolutionary War’s Yorktown battlefield. Virginia has provided matching grants for battlefield preservation since 2006.
“As a result of the Commonwealth’s sustained commitment to the preservation and stewardship of historic battlefields, Virginia is recognized as the national leader in battlefield preservation, and battlefield preservation is among DHR’s highest priorities,” said Julie Langan, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. “Through the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund, historically-significant open space has been protected, in perpetuity, for the benefit of current and future generations of residents and tourists.”
Since the fund’s creation, the $17.5 million in grants awarded by the state have helped to preserve 8,542 acres of battlefield land worth more than $90 million, representing a greater than 5-to-1 return on the state’s investment. The acreage preserved using Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund dollars is located on more than 40 nationally significant battlefields — geographically and militarily diverse sites from the striking landscapes of the northern Shenandoah Valley to Henrico County wetlands just east of Richmond to the rolling fields of the Virginia Piedmont.
In the 2018 grant round, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation will be awarded $255,000 to purchase an easement over 130 acres of farmland in Shenandoah County that figured in the Battle of Tom’s Brook and to purchase outright a two-acre tract in Frederick County that witnessed the Battle of Opequon (Third Winchester).
“The Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund has been and continues to be indispensable to efforts to save threatened battlefield land in the Shenandoah Valley,” said Keven Walker, CEO of the Valley’s National Historic District. “Funding from this program has been instrumental in helping to save thousands of acres of hallowed ground in the Valley, honoring the sacrifice of generations of American servicemen and women, while also protecting critical open space that enhances the lives of local residents and entices millions of visitors to the Valley each year.”
The American Battlefield Trust will be awarded $895,000 to acquire 430 acres at the battlefields of Cold Harbor and North Anna (both in Hanover County), Second Deep Bottom and New Market Heights (Henrico County), Reams Station (Dinwiddie County), Rappahannock Station II (Culpeper County), Petersburg and Yorktown.
This year marks the first time the fund has been applied to a Revolutionary War battlefield, helping to preserve key acreage at Yorktown that figured in the October 1781 siege that secured American independence. In the Richmond area, grant funds will help protect a portion of the New Market Heights battlefield where United States Colored Troops fought with great courage against entrenched defenders, briefly opening the way to the Confederate capital. Fourteen of these men were presented the nation’s Medal of Honor, the greatest number awarded to African-American soldiers for any battle of the Civil War.
“I applaud the Northam Administration for continuing to advance Virginia’s steadfast commitment to preserving its historic battlefields,” American Battlefield Trust President James Lighthizer said. “The grants announced today will serve to protect threatened hallowed ground that may have otherwise been lost forever to development and urban sprawl.”
This year, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources received applications requesting more money in grants than the allocation to the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund could provide, a long-term trend captured in a recently completed study of the program commissioned by the American Battlefield Trust and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.
The report — undertaken for the two nonprofit groups by STACH pllc of Asheville, N.C., and the Community Land Use and Economics Group of Arlington, Va. — was completed prior to the announcement of this year’s grant awards. It describes the successes and economic impact of the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund and outlines the urgent need for continued support of this crucial program.
The report also highlights the vital role that Virginia’s state and national battlefields play in the Commonwealth’s $6.5 billion heritage-tourism industry, which supports more than 105,000 jobs and provides $1.3 billion in tax revenue. Together, Virginia’s state and federal battlefield parks generate about $6,772 per acre in economic output annually, making the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund one of the Commonwealth’s best economic investments.
About the American Battlefield Trust
The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 50,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War, including more than 25,700 acres in Virginia. See www.battlefields.org.
About the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation
The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation protects the hallowed ground of the Valley’s battlefields, shares its story with the nation, and encourages travel to its Civil War sites. The Foundation has directly preserved 5,264 acres of battlefield land in the historic Shenandoah Valley, and helped to preserve more than 8,000 acres in total in the Valley’s National Historic District. See shenandoahatwar.org.