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Saving Fredericksburg's Slaughter Pen Farm“The Slaughter Pen is the very heart and soul of the Fredericksburg Battlefield. Without it, nothing makes sense. This is the point where the battle was won and lost on December 1. After Burnside’s bloody failure here, there was nothing the Union army could do to win the Battle of Fredericksburg — or the Confederates to lose it. Correspondingly, this is where preservation ultimately will win or lose the struggle for Fredericksburg’s history.“Standing on this unblemished historic land — christened in the blood of brave men, North and South — one touches the past, and understands the sacrifices of those men on the most decisive point of the Fredericksburg Battlefield. They fought for this land, and paid for it with their lives.
We need to fight for this land, too — for the past, for them, lest we forget. Nearly all the other land associated with Union attacks at Fredericksburg — either on the southern end of the battlefield or in front of Marye's Heights — has been destroyed by development.
The struggle for the Slaughter Pen Farm was among the most intense in Civil War history. More than 5,0. 00 casualties were inflicted on the farm during the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 1. Five Congressional Medals of Honor for valor were awarded for actions taken on the site that day. According to Ed Bearss, chief historian emeritus of the National Park Service, the farm was . Its acquisition will provide an opportunity to permit visitors to walk in the footsteps of history.
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Route 2) in an area that witnessed tremendous industrial and commercial growth in recent decades, had hung in the balance. The property was zoned for industrial use, and sat immediately adjacent to a major north- south rail line, making it extremely attractive to developers. When the property was put on the market in December 2. Fortunately, the Trust was able to secure the assistance of Tricord, Inc., a local family- owned development company that had previously cooperated with preservationists to save the 1. First Day at Chancellorsville Battlefield.
Tricord brought to the table financial resources, a comprehensive knowledge of the area and the wherewithal to move quickly to take the property off the market. Tricord negotiated with the land owners on the Trust’s behalf, placing the property under contract in an agreement that turned the land over to preservationists with no strings attached. At the time, Russ Smith, superintendent of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, remarked: . Preservationists had long ago given up on maintaining a vista from Union to Confederate lines, but the Civil War Trust and Tricord have given this historic landscape a second chance.
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We will raise the money needed to save this historic treasure — because we must.”Once the property was off the market, no longer destined to be sold for commercial development, the Trust began working with Sun. Trust Bank, which provided a loan package that enabled the organization to embark on a lengthy fundraising campaign. The first big break for the effort came when the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT), one of the most effective local battlefield preservation organizations in the nation, committed $1 million toward the project — a monumental sum for a group of its size. According to CVBT President Mike Stevens, . The Commonwealth of Virginia also contributed $3. Civil War Sites Preservation Fund, the only state- level matching grant program for battlefield preservation.
Efforts to purchase and protect the Slaughter Pen Farm were among the driving forces behind creation of the program. The Trust’s generous members also responded to the call for donations with enthusiasm.
Since the Slaughter Pen Farm is located outside the currently authorized boundary of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, the Trust will not be able to immediately transfer it to the National Park Service once the full cost is paid. However, the true reason to preserve a historic property like this is to open it for public education and appreciation. Knowing this, the Trust opened a 1. Moreover, the Slaughter Pen Farm is one of the four tours included in the Trust’s Fredericksburg Battle App, which debuted in 2. This GPS- enabled mobile battlefield tour utilizes the latest technology, including historian video and maps, to help visitors interpret the land under their feet.
To date, the Trust has raised more than 6. Slaughter Pen Farm; however, work remains to be done before this incredible part of our nation’s history is fully set aside for posterity.