Chancellorsville: Under Preservation Threat

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.”

The red tract (below “Carr”) is threatened by future development

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: 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:

For more information, please visit:

6 Responses to Chancellorsville: Under Preservation Threat

  1. Please, this cannot happen! My 2x great-grandfather, Albert Rouse Rathbone, was laying in wait with the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry just about where this unnecessary development is proposed. He was among several Union soldiers captured during this battle, to be exchanged several days later and then joined the fight at Spotsylvania as a 2nd Lieutenant. I visited with the docents in the visitors center for what seemed like hours a few years ago. Then I visited each of the positions my ancestor would have been assigned from the maps provided to me. I was in awe of how this experience affected me. I can’t imagine how much would be taken away from this experience had there been a busy gas station/convenience store sitting just next to where I believe my ancestor may have been captured. Please don’t let this happen.

  2. Unfortunately, one can never trust local pols when greedy developers are tossing Presidents around. Here’s hoping the local voters show up and send the message.

  3. IF there are any Spotsy folks reading this, I am preaching to the choir most likely but I encourage you to attend the meeting and voice your opinion. Take a look at the Salem Church monuments. Those poor things are now surrounded by commercial sprawl and have lost their context of surrounding fields where you could once feel the brigades charging. The busy traffic does replicate in a way the terrific noise and poisonous air of battle, but men who fought at Salem Church spent hard earned money to create a permanent physical reminder that would tell the future how important that whole space is. And a gas station at Chancellorsville? In an area where many rely on well water, I would have a concern about gasoline leaking into the water table. Good luck to you against well-heeled corporate and foreign investors.

  4. Citizen of Spotsylvania County,
    Please make your voice heard and preserve the beloved Chancellorsville Battlefield intersection with interpretive plaza and Chancellor House Ruins, clear of stores, offices and fueling stations for all to view and interpret without obstruction. History was made here and lives were given. Our citizens come to honor and view this site and to honor the brave citizens that hallowed this ground. Thank you for keeping the battlefield preserved for all to see and honor.

  5. Brest of luck to them but I do not hold high hopes. Civil War battlefields are no longer draw big crowds to battlefield preservation is going to be onthe wane in the coming decades.

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