Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe Accepts Transfer of 127 Acres of Hallowed Ground From Civil War Trust
(Rice, Va.) - At a news conference today, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe presided over a ceremony at the Sailor's Creek Battlefield, formally accepting the transfer of 127 acres of hallowed ground to the Commonwealth at Sailor's Creek Battlefield Historical State Park, located in Amelia and Prince Edward Counties, and High Bridge Trail State Park in Prince Edward County.
Earlier this year, the Civil War Trust conveyed 12 acres to Sailor's Creek Battlefield Historical State Park and 115 acres to High Bridge Trail State Park. These properties were preserved, in part, through funding from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Virginia Civil War Site Preservation Fund, administered by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR). In addition, the Trust also secured a 118-acre conservation easement at Sailor's Creek Battlefield in partnership with Virginia DHR.
"Through concerted efforts to preserve the Commonwealth's battlefields and other historic treasures, this administration and its partners are creating a lasting legacy for present and future Virginians," said Governor McAuliffe. "We will continue to work with nonprofit groups like the Civil War Trust to proactively preserve these irreplaceable resources, as we have done at Sailor's Creek and High Bridge."
Joining McAuliffe at the news conference were Molly Ward, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, and Mike Grainger, Chairman of the Board of the Civil War Trust. According to Grainger, "The Civil War Trust and Virginia have a long history of cooperation to ensure the state's Civil War battlefields are protected, interpreted and open for the public to enjoy. We are pleased to transfer these acres to the care of the state park system. It is our firm belief that Virginia is the best possible steward of these hallowed grounds."
In her remarks, Secretary Ward called the Commonwealth's participation in the project a fitting example of the Old Dominion's ongoing commitment to safeguarding her plentiful historic and natural resources. "Virginia is home to some of the most stirring places in America, including some of the nation's significant Civil War battlefields," said Ward. "The Virginia State Park System is honored to be entrusted with the care of these newly acquired properties at Sailor's Creek and High Bridge."
The Trust and the Commonwealth of Virginia have been working together to protect hallowed ground at Sailor's Creek Battlefield since 1996. The Trust has preserved a total of 885 acres at Sailor's Creek, including the 130 acres announced today - 12 acres of which have been transferred to the state park system, with the remainder preserved through a conservation easement. The additional land presented to the park by the Civil War Trust now allows for interpretation of the fighting at Marshall's Cross Roads, a critical strategic goal of both the Union and Confederate armies in April 1865. The Confederate collapse at these crossroads factored heavily in General Robert E. Lee's decision to surrender 72 hours later at Appomattox. These lands were preserved through private sector donations, leveraged with matching grants from the federal American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) and the Virginia Civil War Site Preservation Fund.
Originally created in 2006 through the donation of 31 miles of disused railway track by Norfolk Southern Railway, High Bridge Trail State Park is another jewel of the state park system. The Civil War Trust has preserved a total of 175 acres at High Bridge, including the 115-acre parcel transferred to the park and announced today. This property, which witnessed fighting on April 6-7, 1865, includes the best-preserved of the four remaining Civil War forts in the vicinity. It also includes the remains of a period wagon road likely used by the troops of both armies. This property was protected with grants from ABPP and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
"In the waning days of the Civil War in April 1865, the Union Army drove General Robert E. Lee west across these fields toward Appomattox," said Chris Calkins, manager of Sailor's Creek Battlefield Historical State Park. "At Sailor's Creek, the two armies fought what would be their last major battle. At High Bridge, the Union Army managed to capture one of the final escape routes for the Confederate Army across the Appomattox River, hastening Lee's surrender."
The Battle of Sailor's Creek, fought on April 6, 1865, was one of the final engagements of the Civil War. Union cavalry under General Phil Sheridan effectively cut off a portion of Lee's army at Marshall's Cross Roads, while other actions took place at the nearby Hillman and Lockett Farms. In three distinct engagements, the Federals overwhelmed the defending Confederates, capturing 7,700 men and depriving Lee of roughly one-fourth of his army.
High Bridge, a crossing of the Appomattox River near Farmville, Va., also played a significant role in the final days of the Civil War in Virginia. As Lee's army retreated westward, rear-guard detachments attempted to delay or disrupt the Union pursuit. On April 6, 1865, the bridge was unsuccessfully attacked by a small Union force attempting to burn the bridge. The next day, Union forces again attempted to capture the bridge, although the retreating Confederate army was able to burn much of the structure. They were, however, unable to destroy a lower wagon bridge, thus allowing the Union forces to cross the river and continue their pursuit.
The Civil War Trust is the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Its mission is to preserve our nation's endangered Civil War battlefields and to promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. To date, the Trust has preserved more than 40,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, including 21,640 acres saved in Virginia. Learn more at www.civilwar.org, the home of the Civil War sesquicentennial.