For three days during the early summer of 2018, I had the honor to deliver a set of tours during the American Battlefield Trust’s (ABT) annual conference. Held in Newport News this event brought together the most dedicated and knowledgeable preservationists together under one roof. Needless to say, the questions and comments that a tour guide receives during an ABT program isn’t even in the same league as those you receive from the general public. After the conference my mind and body were exhausted but I could not stop smiling.
Although held in Newport News, over the course of three days my tours traversed what little remained of the battlefield in Williamsburg. We had received permission from several private and public land owners to visit sites associated with the Battle of Williamsburg which are normally off limits. My goal was simple. Show off these sites now to some of the most motivated preservationists in the Country. Continued threats of development, unregulated metal detecting, and the pressures of Hampton Roads real estate prices had left us with only a handful untouched, pristine, parcels left in James City County, and in fact only a dozen in the entire Williamsburg area.
While forming them into ranks to recreate the charge of Pickett’s brigade one attendee said, “Lets do this.” I glanced back with a quizzical look expecting them to have mentally teleported back to 1862 and hyping themselves up to crack the imaginary Union. “Preserve it,” more than one responded. Nods from the rest of the recreated infantry company agreed and we stepped off with an impressive ‘Rebel Yell.’
And so two years later the American Battlefield Trust and its members are making good on this promise. Today they announced a $220 to $1 match for 29 acres of undeveloped battlefield in Williamsburg. While this might be one of, if not the worst time to fundraise in recent memory that leverage makes even a $5 donation especially effective.
Williamsburg is in Virginia’s “Historic Triangle.” An area touted for its rich history and yet to-date less than a half dozen acres of core battlefield acres have been preserved. Now is the time.