From the desk of Keven Walker, CEO June 18, 2015

  • Share:
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • Email Article

Dear Fellow Preservationists,

I’m writing to you because I’ve recently learned of a preservation emergency and I really need your help. A few weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon, I was contacted by a gentleman living in Shenandoah County whose family worked with us years ago to preserve part of the Tom’s Brook battlefield.

He wanted the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation to know that 24 acres in the heart of the battlefield and adjacent to land that you helped protect in 2012 was in danger of being lost forever.

This land – with spectacular mountain views – had been subdivided into eight residential lots in the 1980’s, and after all these years was going on the market.

Before I tell you how you can save this land for only $1 per square foot, I want to tell you why saving it is so important.

It was on this 24 acre parcel that some of the most intense fighting of the Battle of Tom’s Brook occurred, as the Confederates tried desperately to hold their position before being flanked and routed in what would become known as the “Woodstock Races”…with Federal cavalry dashing wildly after the Confederates from Tom’s Brook through Woodstock, all the way to Mount Jackson, nearly 20 miles away.

This sweeping cavalry clash began at about 6:00 a.m. on October 9, during the closing stages of the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign.

It was a cold, gray morning, and threatening snow. Nearly 10,000 mounted soldiers (6,300 Union and 3,500 Confederate) fought in a decisive Union victory that signaled the end of “The Burning.”

Following their victory at Fisher’s Hill on September 21 – 22, 1864, Union Gen. Philip Sheridan’s forces pursued Confederate Gen. Jubal Early’s army up the Valley to near Staunton, then withdrew north and carried out “The Burning,” burning mills and barns and destroying or carrying away forage, grain, and livestock.  The reinforced Confederates followed, with their cavalry striking at the heels of the Federal horsemen.

These mounted attacks infuriated Sheridan, and he ordered his own cavalry to turn at Tom’s Brook and strike back, telling his commanders to “whip ‘em or get whipped.”

In response to that order, the Federals launched a two-pronged attack up the Valley Pike and the old Back Road.  The heavily outnumbered Confederates were routed in what would be the largest all-cavalry battle ever fought in the Shenandoah Valley.

Their victory at Tom’s Brook led the Federals to believe that Early’s army was “permanently broken, dispirited, and disposed of.”

However, such thoughts proved to be premature.  The ease of the victory lulled the Federal army into a false sense of security that provided Jubal Early’s Confederates the opportunity to launch one of the best-known surprise attacks of the war at Cedar Creek only ten days later.

Sheridan’s words on the eve of the Battle of Tom’s Brook– “whip ‘em or get whipped!” – ring in my ears, and seem appropriate as I sit down to write to you now. Those words apply as much to the fight that you and I are a facing as it did during that cavalry clash in 1864.

This is an enormous opportunity for you to help prevent eight houses from being built on this hallowed ground at Tom’s Brook. Please take a look at the enclosed battle map. When you do, you’ll see the 24 acres clearly marked and that we have no option but to “whip ‘em.”

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

This ground is core of the core. It has to be saved. And as if it wasn’t enough that the land was so important to the story of the 1864 Valley campaign, it’s also important because of how this opportunity came to pass.

A local family sought out the preservation community in an attempt to protect this land.

We can’t fail to honor the men who fought and died on this property and we can’t fail to support this grassroots preservation effort by the people who call the Shenandoah Valley home.

Their confidence in our ability to save the Valley’s battlefields and the nation’s heritage is of paramount importance to all of our future preservation efforts.

They are looking to you and I, no differently than many of their ancestors looked to those storied heroes who defended the Valley 150 years ago. 

We cannot allow the Valley to be lost in this war to preserve the last vestiges of the struggle that made us who we are as a nation.  We have to whip ‘em…because getting whipped is not an option.

I know that you have helped us generously in the past and that I write to you often.  But I also know you get it – you understand how important the cause is, and what is lost if we fail.

The soldiers who fell at Tom’s Brook need your help more than ever before.  We cannot miss this opportunity to save this key battlefield land.

I have been writing to you over the past year about several major projects and preservation battles that are looming in the near future.  I will keep you posted on our progress and upcoming campaigns, but right now I need your help at Tom’s Brook.

The preservation of these 24 acres, though not part of what we anticipated working on this summer, is critical.

I know you will do what you have always done – you will help preserve this land, protecting it forever and ensuring that this battlefield is not lost.

Together we can protect this property for a cost of $250,000 and extinguish eight building lots in the heart of Tom’s Brook where you have already helped protect more than 600 contiguous acres of battlefield land.

We are asking you and other members to provide $50,000 of the funds needed to save this ground forever and we’ll match your investment 4 to1!

I’m asking that you give $25 – $50 – $1000 … give what you can, but please give as much as you can.  Your support is the key to saving this property.

For every $1 you give, about one square foot will be saved!

The preservation of this battlefield comes down to the age old question…If not you, then who, and if not now, then when?  Well – I can answer that – If we don’t do it, it won’t be done, and if we don’t do it now, this land will be lost forever.

I thank you in advance for your contribution and look forward to hearing from you.

With Warm Regards,

Chief Executive Officer