Protect the Heart of Chancellorsville Battlefield
Thank you, Local Residents! You packed the August 10 Public Meeting venue to overflow capacity to express opposition to the project and hundreds more have signed our online letters. Read the Free Lance-Star's coverage here. And please watch this space for information on future meetings and other project updates!
Two decades ago, the fight to protect the Chancellorsville Battlefield was a defining moment of the battlefield preservation movement. Thanks to a mixture of tenacity, savvy, creativity and community-minded activism, we worked with elected officials and developers to create a win-win solution that met everyone’s needs. Today, instead of a massive “town center” development and highway bypass, it’s a community asset with popular interpreted walking trails that is also home to the Spotsylvania County Museum.
When we crafted this preservation solution, we concentrated on acquiring the most historically significant parts of a larger property, along modern Route 3, where combat was concentrated on May 1, 1863. With so much of road frontage preserved and closed to development, our 208-acre First Day at Chancellorsville has held development pressure spreading west from Fredericksburg at bay. But now, Spotsylvania County is considering a special use permit application for a gas station, convenience store and professional complex further west in an area at the heart of fighting later in the battle. Bad enough in its own right, this project could be the spark that jumps our figurative firebreak and opens the eastern part of the battlefield to development.
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.
Previous deliberation by county officials has deemed this site outside of the proposed settlement district and within the rural development district, indicating a strong preference for it to remain in open space or other non intensive land uses.
The surrounding area is wooded and much of the land is preserved by the National Park Service, Central Virginia Battlefields Trust or the Trust, as shown on the above battle map. This means that even the relatively attractive “concept art” initially submitted in pursuit of a special use permit and reflected in this artist rendering will stand out horribly.
Worst of all, inserting a gas station, convenience store and other professional businesses at this site stands to open the floodgates of development pressure and, coupled with what we are fighting at Wilderness Crossing, will create a noose tightening around Chancellorsville.