Virginia State Seal

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

DHR Announces 2019 Virginia Battlefield Preservation Grants to Protect 398 Acres

For Immediate Release
December 31, 2019

–General Assembly allotted $1 million for battlefield preservation in 2019–

–Targeted tracts are in the counties of Hanover, Henrico, Prince William, Shenandoah, and Spotsylvania–

 RICHMOND – The Department of Historic Resources announced today that grants from this year’s Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund will protect more than 398 acres affiliated with Civil War battlefields, most of it rural acreage of farm, or timberland and open space.

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. After receiving more grant applications than the 2019 fund of $1 million can support, DHR determined this year’s selection, as it has in the past, through a rigorous evaluation process.

Based on DHR’s recommendations, the Commonwealth will award VBPF grants to four organizations: the American Battlefield Trust, Central Virginia Battlefield Trust, Potomac Conservancy, and the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.

These nonprofits will use the VBPF grants to leverage private matching donations to preserve land tracts associated with six battlefields: Bristow Station, Cold Harbor, Fisher’s Hill, New Market Heights, Port Republic, and Spotsylvania Court House.

In accordance with VBPF stipulations, organizations that receive battlefield grants must donate an easement to the Virginia Board of Historic Resources of any acreage acquired with the state grants. The easements restrict or forbid development of the acreage, allowing for perpetual protection of the land.

In selecting the awards, DHR considered each battlefield’s significance and ranking in Congress’s
mandated “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 be disburse to the—

  • American Battlefield Trust combined grants totaling $489,466 to purchase more than 147 acres at three battlefields, as follows:
    • $400,000 toward the purchase of 50.09 acres in Hanover County (Cold Harbor Battlefield);
    • $25,000 toward 76 acres in Prince William Co (Battle of Bristow Station); and
    • $64,466 toward 21.25 acres in Henrico County (New Market Heights Battlefield).
  • Potomac Conservancy $322,920 to facilitate purchase of an easement on 179.4 acres in Shenandoah County (Fisher’s Hill Battlefield).
  • Central Virginia Battlefield Trust $163,114 to support purchase of a 69-acre tract in Spotsylvania County (Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield); and
  • Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation $24,500 to assist in purchasing a three-acre tract in Rockingham County (Port Republic Battlefield).

“The award of these funds demonstrates the Commonwealth’s continued commitment to the preservation of historic battlefield properties, and contributes as well to our state’s significant and steadily growing heritage tourism,” said Julie V. Langan, DHR director.

Civil War Battlefield Grant Awards 2019

Summaries of Battles (in chronological order)

Port Republic Battlefield, Rockingham Co.
Preserved Property: Randolph Edwards Tract (3 acres)
Sponsor: Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation

Fighting at Port Republic on June 9, 1862 involved Confederate attacks against Union troops holding strong positions just north of the Kaylor Farm. The collapse of the Union line gave the Confederate army undisputed control of the upper and middle Shenandoah Valley.

Bristoe Station Battlefield, Prince William Co.
Preserved Property: Bristow Manassas LLC Tract (76 acres)
Sponsor: Bristow Manassas

The Battle of Bristoe Station occurred on October 14, 1863, at Bristoe Station, between Union forces under Maj. Gen. Gouvernuer K Warren and Confederate forces under Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill during the Bristoe Campaign. The Union II Corps under Warren was able to surprise and repel the Confederate attack by Hill on the Union rearguard, resulting in a Union victory. Union casualties were 540, Confederate about 1,380. Although Union forces won the battle, they had to retreat to Centreville before standing their ground. When they pulled back, starting on October 18, the Confederates destroyed much of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. That forced Union’s Maj. Gen. George G Meade into rebuilding the railroad when he reoccupied the area around Bristoe Station.

Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield, Spotsylvania Co.
Preserved Property: Myers Hill Tract (69 acres)
Sponsor: Central Virginia Battlefield Trust

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, also known as the Battle of Spotsylvania, was the second major battle in Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign. It followed the bloody but inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness, after Grant’s army disengaged from Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army and moved to the southeast, where Grant attempted to lure Lee into battle under more favorable conditions. Elements of Lee’s army outpaced the Union army to the critical crossroads of Spotsylvania Court House, where Lee’s forces began entrenching. Fighting occurred on and off from May 8 through May 21, 1864, as Grant tried various schemes to break the Confederate line. In the end, the battle was tactically inconclusive, although both sides declared victory. The Confederacy deemed it a victory because its forces held their defenses. The Union did so because its offensive continued and Lee’s army suffered irreplaceable losses. With almost 32,000 casualties on both sides, Spotsylvania was the costliest battle of the campaign.

Cold Harbor Battlefield, Hanover Co.
Preserved Property: Hanover County Tract (50.09 acres)
Sponsor: American Battlefield Trust

Fought between May 31 and June 12, 1864, the Battle of Cold Harbor was the final engagement of Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign. One of U.S. history’s bloodiest and most lopsided battles, Cold Harbor’s most significant and fiercest fighting occurred on June 3, when thousands of Union soldiers were slaughtered while undertaking a hopeless frontal assault against the fortified troops of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The battle represented one of the last of Gen. Lee’s victories. After this battle, Grant gave up the idea of a direct attack on Richmond. Union forces suffered 1,845 killed and 9,077 wounded; Confederates had 788 killed, and 3,376 wounded.

Fishers Hill Battlefield, Shenandoah Co.
Preserved Property: Bullard Tract (179.4 acres)
Sponsor: Potomac Conservancy

Confederate fortifications across the width of the valley at Fishers Hill prevented the Union army’s use of the Valley Turnpike (roughly U.S. 11 today). A Union attack on September 21, 1864 at Fisher’s Hill and a surprise Union flanking maneuver on September 22 resulted in a Confederate retreat, opening the Shenandoah Valley to Union Gen. Phil Sheridan’s destruction of mills, barns, crops and livestock later that year. The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation’s purchase of a conservation easement on 179.4 acres at Fishers Hill will protect and preserve the land associated with the battle while keeping it in private ownership.

New Market Heights, Henrico Co.
Preserved Property: Welch Tract (21.25 acres)
Sponsor: American Battlefield Trust

The Battle New Market Heights, September 29, 1864, was part of series of extended combats at Chaffins Farm and Confederate Forts Gregg, Gilmer and Johnson, the Confederate defenses east of Richmond. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ordered the assault to create a diversionary attack on Richmond, hoping to deflect Gen. Robert E. Lee’s attention from Grant’s movement against the Southside Railroad west of Petersburg during the siege of that city. On the night of September 28-29, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler’s Army of the James began an assault on the Richmond defenses. Butler targeted the Confederate line anchored on the north bank of the James River near the Chaffin Farm. Butler’s right column under Maj. Gen. David Birney moved the X Corps north from the Deep Bottom bridgehead toward the Confederate works atop New Market Heights manned by Brig. Gen. John Gregg. A brigade of U.S. Colored Troops heroically attacked the heights but was repulsed. Birney reinforced the assault force and stormed the heights again. The battle’s tide turned when Union forces turned the Confederate left flank. The Union success at New Market Heights compelled Gregg to pull Confederate troops back to Forts Gregg, Gilmer and Johnson

Updated January 22, 2020