Middle Field Restoration Project, Third Winchester Battlefield

As the 150th  anniversary of the Opequon-Third Battle of Winchester approaches (September 19, 2014), SVBF has partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Smithsonian Institution, and the environmental fundraising group Ahyayha to begin restoration of the historic 30-acre Middle Field parcel of the Huntsberry farm on the 3rd  Winchester battlefield.

The Middle Field Project area is located on the recently preserved 209-acre Huntsberry farm and is core battlefield land where the fighting was fierce, close, and devastating.  SVBF plans to bring the Middle Field back to its 1864 historic appearance for the sesquicentennial of the 3rd  Winchester battle, using a balanced approach of rehabilitation management techniques. 

The Huntsberry Farm is located just to the east of the City of Winchester in Frederick County, Virginia where more than 54,000 Americans fought one another in the opening salvo of Union Gen. Philip Sheridan’s devastating Shenandoah Campaign – a military operation that ultimately decimated the Valley’s agricultural bounty in weeks of burning and destruction during the fall of 1864. 

150 years later, some of the rural farms (including Huntsberry) and mill-races within the Redbud Run watershed still have many historic battlefield features that remain intact. Some of these historic landscapes include areas known as the First Woods, Middle Field, and the Second Woods.

Nearly 1,500 Union soldiers were killed or wounded, including every regimental commander during the baptism of fire and conflict that raged across the Middle Field.  One soldier recalled the Middle Field as “that basin of Hell.” The National Park Service stated that the Middle Field “ranks with some of the most sanguinary fields of the Civil War.”

The Middle Field Rehabilitation Management Objectives: 

  • Restoration and Rehabilitation of the farm’s historical landscape for battlefield interpretation
  • Selective removal of 30 acres of invasive shrub land and conversion to a forest meadow
  • Rehabilitation of Middle Field to warm season grasses plantings for farm hay production
  • Wildlife habitat improvements for deer, turkey, bobwhite quail, and other songbirds
  • Outdoor recreation improvements  including passive walking trail production, historic fence restoration, and installation of interpretive signage

   

Why the Middle Field? Why now?

The Middle Field Project presents the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation with an unprecedented opportunity for rehabilitation and restoration. A field abandoned years ago, the Middle Field today supports a shrub land of pioneer species that are predominantly non-native, invasive species including ailanthus (tree of heaven), Russian olive, Osage orange, and multi-flora rose, with intermixed hardwood and pine species. Not only does the high concentration of invasive species present an environmental concern, it also detracts from the sense and understanding of the historic landscape that unfolds before the visitor’s eye across the 575-acre battlefield preserve.

While the task ahead is not small, managing the Huntsberry farm is an important investment in preserving the Shenandoah Valley’s historic integrity and promoting the Third Winchester battlefield as a premier Civil War destination.  The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation needs your help to restore the 30-acre Middle Field on the Huntsberry farm before Sept. 19, 2014: the 150th  anniversary of the Third Battle of Winchester.

Middle Field Project Costs:

The costs associated with the total restoration and development of the Middle Field on the Huntsberry farm is estimated at over $80,000. $32,000 is estimated to be spent during Phase I alone, beginning March, 2013. Once the Project Area is cleared, then the Battlefields Foundation will begin the establishment of native warm season grasses, as well as conduct an archaeological investigation of the project area with James Madison University and the Archaeological Society of Virginia during April-July, 2013.

Project Completion Time frame:

March 1, 2013- December 31, 2013

 
You can help Shenandoah Valley Battlefields restore this land and share its stories with future generations. Please click the donate button below and pledge your support! 

To learn about more about the Third Battle of Winchester, please go to: http://www.shenandoahatwar.org/The-History/The-Battles/Third-Battle-of-Winchester-Opequon