(Fredericksburg, Va.) - The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), America's largest nonprofit battlefield preservation group, today announced the beginning of a $12 million national campaign to preserve the historic Slaughter Pen Farm, a key part of the Fredericksburg battlefield. The 205-acre farm, known locally as the Pierson Tract, was the scene of bloody struggle on December 13, 1862. Historians estimate that more than 5,000 casualties were incurred on the property.
"This is the most ambitious nonprofit battlefield acquisition in American history," remarked CWPT President James Lighthizer. "The veterans themselves referred to the farm as ?the slaughter pen' because of the enormous amount of blood that was shed there. Despite the price tag, we simply could not sit idly by and watch this irreplaceable battleground become an industrial park. We will raise the money needed to save this historic treasure — because we must."
Historians agree with Lighthizer's assessment that preserving the Slaughter Pen Farm should be a national priority. According to Ed Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service, the farm is "without a doubt the most significant part of the battlefield at Fredericksburg that is not protected. Its acquisition will provide an opportunity to permit visitors to walk in the footsteps of history." Historian Frank O'Reilly, the author of The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock, calls the Slaughter Pen Farm "the very heart and soul of the Fredericksburg Battlefield. This is the point where the battle was won and lost."
The Slaughter Pen Farm is the largest remaining unprotected part of the Fredericksburg Battlefield. It is also the only place on the battlefield where a visitor can still follow the Union assault on that bloody day from beginning to end. Nearly all the other land associated with Union attacks at Fredericksburg — either on the southern end of the battlefield or in front of Marye's Heights — has been destroyed by development.
"This is our last chance to save an irreplaceable portion of the Fredericksburg Battlefield," stated Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT) President Mike Stevens. "Standing on that last unblemished landscape, where so many men gave their lives on a cold winter day, it is clear that such sacrifice and valor must be preserved to inspire future generations." Stevens also noted that CVBT intends to play a key role in the campaign to save the Slaughter Pen Farm.
For years, the fate of the Slaughter Pen Farm has hung in the balance. The farm is located along historic Tidewater Trail (U.S. Route 2), which has witnessed tremendous industrial and commercial growth in recent years. The property is zoned for industrial use, and is immediately adjacent to a major north-south rail line, making it extremely attractive to developers. When the property was put on the market in December 2005, the listing agent described it as "one of the best industrial sites in the Commonwealth of Virginia." "Under the circumstances, preservation of the farm seemed a long shot at best," noted Lighthizer.
Once the Slaughter Pen Farm was placed on the market, preservationists were in a race against time. Fortunately, CWPT was able to secure the assistance of Tricord, Inc., a local family-owned development company that had previously cooperated with preservationists to save the 140-acre First Day of Chancellorsville Battlefield (formerly known as the Mullins Farm). Tricord brought to the table financial resources, a comprehensive knowledge of the area, and the wherewithal to move quickly to take the property off the market. Tricord and CWPT have an agreement that turns the Slaughter Pen Farm over to CWPT to be preserved in its entirety — no strings attached.
"Tricord has once again shown itself to be an exceptionally community-minded corporation," Lighthizer stated. "They gave of their time and talents to secure this property, without any benefit other than the satisfaction that they were helping to save hallowed ground." Stevens also lauded Tricord, noting: "Tricord deserves praise for allowing love for this community to guide their decisions; who, simply put, did an honorable and noble thing in helping to make this all possible."
Russ Smith, Superintendent of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, also expressed enthusiasm for a cooperative effort to save the Slaughter Pen Farm: "We view this as a rebirth of the Fredericksburg battlefield. Preservationists had long ago given up on maintaining a vista from Union to Confederate lines, but CWPT and Tricord have given this historic landscape a second chance."
In April 2005, CWPT presented Tricord, Inc. with its Shelby Foote Preservation Legacy Award, for its role in saving the First Day of Chancellorsville site. During its May 2005 annual conference in Fredericksburg, CVBT presented Tricord with a similar honor.
Reaching the $12 million goal for the Slaughter Pen Farm campaign is not going to be easy. CWPT intends to work with federal, state and local government officials to secure matching grants to help pay for acquisition of the property. Government grants will be leveraged with private sector donations from CWPT members, corporations and other conservation groups. According to Lighthizer, "we anticipate an unprecedented response for this fundraising effort from our members and all those who care about this great nation."
With 70,000 members, CWPT is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation's remaining Civil War battlefields. Since 1987, the organization has saved more than 22,000 acres of hallowed ground. CWPT's website is located at www.civilwar.org.