DHR Announces Easement on Civil War Battlefield Land in Shenandoah Valley

Published March 7, 2023

Department of Historic Resources
(www.dhr.virginia.gov)
For Immediate Release
February 22, 2023

Contact:
Ivy Tan
Marketing & Communications Manager
ivy.tan@dhr.virginia.gov
804-482-6445

—The easement will protect approximately 20 acres associated with a major battle in Confederate Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s Valley campaign of 1862—

RICHMOND – The Department of Historic Resources (DHR) has executed and recorded a perpetual preservation and open-space easement over approximately 20 acres of historically significant land in Highland County that is associated with the Battle of McDowell. The battle marked a turning point in the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862 during the American Civil War (1861-1865) by restricting the Union advance on Richmond and preventing the consolidation of Union forces within the Valley. The property, known as the Levien Tract, is located along Highland Turnpike (U.S. Route 250), just east of the unincorporated town of McDowell.

The battle took place on May 8, 1862, when Confederate troops under Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson engaged Union forces camped near McDowell to prevent them from entering the Shenandoah Valley. Jackson’s forces took up a position on Sittlington Hill overlooking the Union encampment along the Bullpasture River. In the late afternoon, Union infantry crossed the river to attack the Confederate position, but the difficult terrain impeded their advance. Fighting continued for several hours as both armies attacked and counterattacked across the property, but the Union troops were repelled and ultimately withdrew. While the Battle of McDowell was chaotic and inflicted significant Confederate losses, it succeeded in its goal to prevent Union soldiers from advancing and entering into Richmond.

A wooded area of the Levien Tract along Duff's Run in Highland County
A wooded area of the Levien Tract along Duff's Run in Highland County. Photo: DHR.

The Civil War Sites Advisory Commission (CWSAC) has given the McDowell Battlefield a preservation priority rating of III.3, Class C. Situated entirely within the core of the battlefield, the Levien Tract property encompasses a residential complex surrounded by 18-plus acres of wooded terrain on the slopes of Sittlington Hill and Cedar Knob. The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation (SVBF) acquired the property in 2018 with grants from the American Battlefield Protection Program and the Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund. The easement, recorded on February 17, 2023, was conveyed to the Virginia Board of Historic Resources (VBHR) by SVBF as a requirement of these grants.

As of 2023, DHR has placed under easement more than 45,000 acres of land. DHR easements are held by the VBHR, and DHR staff monitor the eased lands. The VBHR currently holds easements on approximately 15,900 acres of battlefields in Virginia.

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