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New grant will help preserve part of Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., at a Capitol Hill ceremony on Jan. 3, 2019.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By CATHY JETT | The (Fredericksburg, Va.) Free Lance-Star | Published: June 18, 2019

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (Tribune News Service) — A new National Park Service grant will help preserve a part of the Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield that’s been called one of America’s most historic roads.

The NPS awarded a $96,546 American Battlefield Protection Program grant to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation recently to help preserve 14.4 acres of the Spotsylvania Court House Battlefield, Fifth Corps Brock Road Tract. The department is partnering with Central Virginia Battlefields Trust on the acquisition.

The CVBT, which is based in Fredericksburg, invested $205,000 last year to purchase and preserve the three adjoining parcels south of Brock Road and immediately above Hancock Drive that make up the Fifth Corps tract. It then launched a fundraising appeal to cover the outlay.

“The American Battlefield Protection program is definitely an integral and important part of organizations like ours to save these battlefields and, of course, getting that grant for about half of the $205,000 we spent on the Fifth Corps was paramount in our being able to do it,” said CVBT President Tom Van Winkle. “It was gratifying to get that grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program for this important part of Spotsylvania that we continue to work on, as we’re still working on the Myer’s Hill acquisition.”

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House involved numerous attacks May 8-12, 1864, across a broad, shifting front. The Fifth Corps tract includes a commanding ridge that offered a good view of the battlefield.

It served as a staging area for the Union army’s initial attacks on May 8, and became the rallying point for the Fifth Corps when its attacks collapsed later that day. The corps also used it as a staging and rallying point for its attacks on May 10 and May 12, and it became the defensive cornerstone for the Union army’s right flank on May 12. Two days later, it shifted into an avenue of Confederate movement as troops probed Union defenses.

CVBT board member, noted Civil War preservationist and re-enactor Robert Lee Hodge has called Brock Road “one of the most historical roads in America.”

CVBT also purchased Myer’s Hill last year for $450,000. That tract lies between the Ni River and Massaponax Church Road southeast of Plantation Forest Drive, and was the scene of fighting during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

Purchasing both these areas adds to the interpretation of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, as well as helping to insulate the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park from encroachment.

“This National Park Service grant funding will help the Spotsylvania community preserve these hallowed grounds, connect more Virginians to their history, and protect NPS and tourism jobs that help sustain our region’s economy,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., said in a news release Monday.

The ABPP grant for the Fifth Corps Brock Road Tract is one of three totaling almost $500,000 that the NPS announced recently to help protect 131 acres of America’s Civil War battlefields threatened with damage or destruction by urban and suburban development. The others will be used to acquire a portion of the Fort Blakeley Battlefield in Alabama and Champion Hill Battlefield in Mississippi.

©2019 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)
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