The battle of Chancellorsville. A defining moment in the American Civil War and U.S. History. As two armies of a divided nation clashed in the dense woods of the Virginian wilderness at the beginning of May 1863. By the end of the fighting, an estimated 30,764 men had fallen—dead, wounded, or missing. On the morning of May 3—one of the most intense fighting days—one man fell every second for hours. The battle ended with a Confederate victory and Union retreat. But victorious General Robert E. Lee had not crushed the Union army while the heavy losses within his own army’s ranks would be irreplaceable.
Can you imagine a gas station in the heart of battlefield where thousands of men perished 160 years ago? Chancellorsville Battlefield is once again under preservation threat as Spotsylvania County prepares to consider a special use permit that would place a gas station, convenience store, and professional complex within a mile of the historic Chancellorsville crossroads, once the epicenter of battle.
American Battlefield Trust articulates the threat in their new announcement:
“The 10-acre parcel at risk stands within 1,500 feet of the intersection that lent its name to one of the Civil War’s most bloody and significant engagements, where the interpretive plaza positioned near the ruins of the Chancellor House constitute a must-see element for every battlefield visitor. This vicinity is at the heart of the battlefield — occupied by Federal troops starting on the morning of May 1 and gradually becoming more central to the action until it was directly assaulted by elements of Confederate Gen. Lafayette McLaws’s division on the morning of May 3 during the massive push that dislodged Gen. Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac from Chancellorsville. The entirety of the property is defined as core battlefield and a significant portion is within the legislatively authorized boundary of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, the Virginia Landmarks Register and other overlay recognitions.”
In the past, Spotsylvania county officials placed this location outside of the settlement district and indicated a strong preference for this area to remain as open space or perhaps non-intrusive land uses. There is an opportunity to make a strong appeal to allow this portion of Chancellorsville battle to remain undeveloped and better able to represent the stories and the sacrifices from the 1863 battle. Each year thousands of visitors arrive at Chancellorsville battlefield to stand where history happened or drive along the historic roads. People do not come to Chancellorsville battlefield in Spotsylvania County to find a gas station. (It should be noted that several gas stations are already available for highway travelers on either side of the Chancellorsville corridor.)
At this time, American Battlefield Trust urges local residents to attend the community meeting on August 10, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. at the Chancellor Ruritan Club, located at 5994 Plank Road, Fredericksburg, VA 22407. For more information, please visit: https://www.battlefields.org/events/public-meeting-discuss-chancellorsville-development-proposal All supporters of battlefield preservation are encouraged sign letters to local decision makers, expressing the desire to protect this vital part of Chancellorsville battlefield from intrusive development: https://www.battlefields.org/preserve/speak-out/protect-heart-chancellorsville-battlefield/preservationist-letter
For more information, please visit: https://www.battlefields.org/preserve/speak-out/protect-heart-chancellorsville-battlefield