DHR Announces 2022 Virginia Battlefield Preservation Grants To Protect 252 Acres

Published October 27, 2022

–General Assembly allotted $500,000 for battlefield preservation in 2022–

–Targeted tracts are in Henrico and Rockingham Counties-

RICHMOND – The Department of Historic Resources announced today that grants from this year’s Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund will protect 252 acres including tracts affiliated with the actions of the United States Colored Troops. The acreage targeted for preservation is located in Henrico and Rockingham counties. The General Assembly established the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund (VBPF) in 2010, and authorized the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) to administer the fund by evaluating and disbursing grant awards to eligible recipients. DHR determined this year’s selections through a rigorous evaluation process, after receiving more grant applications than the 2022 fund of $500,000 can support.
“The preservation of these significant battlefields advances Virginia’s goals of increasing historic preservation and land conservation,” said Travis A. Voyles, Acting Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources, “and advances our reputation as a destination for those seeking to connect with our nation's history.” Based on DHR’s recommendations, the Commonwealth will award a VBPF grant to the Capital Region Land Conservancy and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. These two nonprofits will use the VBPF grants to leverage private matching donations to preserve land associated with multiple Civil War battlefields — Deep Bottom and Chaffin’s Farm/New Market Heights in Henrico County and Port Republic in Rockingham County. “The award of these funds demonstrates the Commonwealth’s continued commitment to the preservation of historic battlefield properties and expands opportunities for heritage tourism and outdoor recreation,” said Julie V. Langan, DHR Director. In accordance with VBPF stipulations, organizations that receive battlefield grants must donate an easement to the Virginia Board of Historic Resources for any acreage acquired with the state grants. The perpetual easements restrict or prohibit development of the land and contain provisions protecting historic, archaeological, and battlefield landscape resources on the property, among others. In selecting the awards, DHR considered each battlefield's significance and ranking in Congress’s “Report on the Nation's Civil War Battlefields,” issued in 1993 and subsequently updated. Additionally, DHR weighed factors in the grant applications such as the proximity of a battlefield parcel to already protected lands; the threat of encroaching development that could transform a parcel’s historic look and feel at the time of a battle; and the potential for education, recreation, research, or heritage tourism in connection with a battlefield tract. Using these criteria, DHR will disburse—
  • $300,000 to the Capital Region Land Conservancy to purchase an easement from the owner of 145 acres in Henrico County associated with the Deep Bottom and Chaffin’s Farm/New Market Heights battlefields.
  • $200,000 to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation for acquisition of 107 acres of land in Rockingham County associated with the Battle of Port Republic.
Battlefield Grant Awards 2022 Battle Summaries Deep Bottom & Chaffin’s Farm/New Market Heights Battlefields, Henrico Co. Preserved Property: Camp Holly Springs Tract (145 acres) Sponsor: Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC)
  • First Deep Bottom: This July 27–29, 1864 battle was part of the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign. During the night of July 26-27, the Union Army II Corps and two divisions of Gen. Philip Sheridan’s cavalry under the command of Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock crossed to the north side of James River to threaten Richmond, diverting Confederate forces from an impending attack at Petersburg on July 30. Union forces abandoned efforts to turn the Confederate position at New Market Heights and Fussell's Mill after Confederates strongly reinforced their lines and counterattacked. During the night of July 29, the Federals re-crossed the river, leaving a garrison to hold the bridgehead at Deep Bottom.
  • Second Deep Bottom--Fussell’s Mill: Fighting at Fussell’s Mill occurred from August 13-20, 1864. During the night of August 13-14, the Union II Corps, X Corps, and Gregg's cavalry division, under command of Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, crossed James River at Deep Bottom to threaten Richmond. This was coordinated with a movement against the Weldon Railroad at Petersburg. On August 14, the X Corps closed on New Market Heights while the II Corps extended the Federal line to the right along Bailey’s Creek. On August 16, Union assaults near Fussell’s Mill were initially successful, but Confederate counterattacks drove the Federals from a line of captured earthworks. After continual skirmishing, the Federals returned to the south side of the James on the 20th.
  • Chaffin’s Farm/New Market Heights: During the night of September 28-29, 1864, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler’s Army of the James acted on plans to attack the Confederate defenses protecting Richmond. Maj. Gen. David Birney’s X Corps and Brig. Gen. Charles Paine’s division of United States Colored Troops (USCT), crossed the James River at Deep Bottom, advancing north. They quickly came under Confederate fire. After initial Union successes at New Market Heights and Fort Harrison, the Confederates rallied and contained the breakthrough. However, Confederate fire slackened during the battle, providing an opportunity for the USCTs to charge New Market Heights. Union infantrymen crossed the Confederate earthworks and rushed up the slopes of the heights and continued their advance under heavy artillery fire and counterattack, eventually seizing the hilltop.
The CRLC purchase of an easement from the owner of the Camp Holly Springs Tract supports preservation of a continuous corridor of protected historic landscape associated with three Civil War battles. In particular, the property is associated with the United States Colored Troops’ actions during the Civil War and presents new opportunities for related research and education. Port Republic Battlefield, Rockingham Co. Preserved Property: Edwards Tracts (107 acres) Sponsor: Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation (SVBF)
  • Port Republic: On June 9, 1862, after a victory at Cross Keys, Gen. Thomas J. Jackson turned towards Federal forces east of the village of Port Republic. The battle centered on a 70-foot high open ridge known locally as the “The Coaling”, as it was the site of a charcoaling operation. Although initial Confederate assaults were repulsed, Gen. Richard Taylor’s Louisiana brigade ultimately captured the Union artillery. Taylor’s renowned “Louisiana Tigers” moved through the woods west of the Edwards Tracts to assault The Coaling. The crest of hilltop saw intense fire as Federal batteries under Gen. Erastus Tyler attacked the charging Louisianans. Both sides seized and retook possession of the heights in a series of charges and countercharges. Reinforcements from Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s division arrived and the Confederates permanently drove the Federals from their position on the high ground. The victory at Port Republic allowed Jackson to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains and join the main force of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army near Richmond.
SVBF intends to install a publicly accessible interpretative trail across the property which will have a positive community impact. The tract adjoins other SVBF-owned properties associated with the Battle of Port Republic, and will create a contiguous corridor of over 325 acres of conserved historic landscape. Contact: Stephanie Williams Department of Historic Resources (804) 482-6082 Stephanie.Williams@dhr.virginia.gov
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