Interior Secretary Announces $2 Million Grant for Historic Slaughter Pen Farm
(Fredericksburg, Va.) - At a news conference this morning, U.S. Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced a $2 million federal matching grant for preservation of the historic Slaughter Pen Farm on the Fredericksburg Battlefield. The news conference, hosted by the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), was the first public event held at the Slaughter Pen Farm.
"The effort to preserve the Slaughter Pen Farm is a model for conservation partnerships throughout the nation," remarked Secretary Kempthorne. "The Civil War Preservation Trust, working with local preservationists and government officials on the federal, state and local levels, has been able to protect one of the most historically significant battlefield properties in the nation."
The campaign to preserve the 208-acre Slaughter Pen Farm is the most expensive private battlefield preservation effort in American history. CWPT, working in partnership with Tricord, Inc., SunTrust Bank, and the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust, was able to purchase the property for $12 million earlier this year. CWPT is now engaged in an unprecedented campaign to raise the $12 million so the property can be protected in perpetuity.
CWPT President James Lighthizer thanked the Secretary for his support of battlefield preservation and his interest in the Slaughter Pen Farm: "We are enormously grateful for Secretary Kempthorne's announcement of a $2 million federal matching grant for the Slaughter Pen Farm. Although we still need to raise millions more to pay off the property, this federal grant is a crucial component in our campaign. Without it, we would simply be unable to meet our $12 million goal."
The Department of the Interior awarded the $2 million grant based on the significance of the land and the availability of non-federal matching funds. The money is provided through a Congressional appropriation from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund supports non-federal efforts to acquire and preserve meaningful Civil War battlefield lands. The program is administered by the American Battlefield Protection Program, an arm of the National Park Service.
Joining Secretary Kempthorne and Lighthizer at the news conference were Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Bill Howell and Virginia State Senator Ed Houck. Both Howell and Houck are long-time supporters of battlefield preservation in Virginia, and advocated creation of the new Virginia Civil War Historic Site Preservation Fund earlier this year. The state is expected to allocate money from the new fund for the Slaughter Pen Farm. According to Speaker Howell, preserving sites like the Slaughter Pen Farm is the exact purpose that the legislature had in mind when it inaugurated the program this spring.
The struggle for the Slaughter Pen Farm was among the most intense in Civil War history. More than 5,000 casualties were inflicted on the farm during the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. Five Congressional Medals of Honor for valor were awarded for actions taken on site that day. National Park Service Historian Frank O'Reilly, author of The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock, says, "The Slaughter Pen is the very heart and soul of the Fredericksburg Battlefield. Without it, nothing makes sense. It is 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.
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 was 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 obtain the expertise and assistance of several corporate and nonprofit partners to save the property. Tricord, Inc. helped CWPT move quickly to take the property off the market before it could be sold for commercial development. Once the property was secured, SunTrust Bank provided CWPT with a loan package to enable the organization to embark on a lengthy fundraising campaign.
In addition, the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT), one of most effective local battlefield preservation organization's in the nation, has committed $1 million toward the Slaughter Pen Farm fundraising campaign. According to CVBT President Mike Stevens, "Standing on that last unblemished landscape, where so many men gave their lives, it is clear that such sacrifice and valor must be preserved to inspire future generations."
The Civil War Preservation Trust is a 70,000-member nonprofit battlefield preservation organization. Its mission is to preserve our nation's endangered Civil War sites and promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. Since 1987, the organization has saved more than 23,000 acres of hallowed ground. CWPT's website is located at www.civilwar.org.