Published on August 30, 2019

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A Golden Opportunity to Save 108 Acres

Click image to see map of battle

We have a chance to save 108 acres of core battlefield on the historic Barb Farm at Fisher’s Hill.

This is 108 acres of core battlefield – unspoiled and unchanged – land that played a key role in the Battle of Fisher’s Hill on September 21-22, 1864.  And we have a golden opportunity to save it.

When Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early’s army suffered their crushing defeat at Third Winchester on September 19, 1864, Early and his battered army moved south to Fisher’s Hill, the formidable ridgeline that was known as “The Gibraltar of the Valley.”  While Fisher’s Hill was a strong position, the strength of Early’s army and the position was concentrated from their center to their right. Early’s left was much less formidable.  His left flank rested on the Barb Farm near the foot of Little North Mountain, along the old Back Road.  Here, the terrain was lower, making for a weaker defensive position.  And the topographical weakness was exacerbated by how Early had arranged his troops. His left was defended by dismounted cavalry and far fewer guns than he had posted on the right.

That afternoon, the Army of West Virginia, an entire corps of Union Gen. Philip H. Sheridan’s army, would come crashing down the side of Little North Mountain in an attack that would crash into the Confederate’s vulnerable left flank – in large part on the Barb Farm.

The Federal onslaught that would decide the battle – and the Confederates’ desperate struggle to meet it – began on the property that I need you to help preserve…

To learn more, click here to read a letter about this preservation effort from SVBF CEO Keven M. Walker.

The Battle of Fisher’s Hill: “An Overdose of Devils”

Click image to see historic sketch

After being defeated at Third Winchester, Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early withdrew south to the imposing defensive position of Fisher’s Hill, followed by Union Gen. Philip H. Sheridan’s larger force.   By September 21, 1864, the armies faced each other again.

Early had good reason to use Fisher’s Hill as a rallying point.  It was “a natural fortification, apparently an impregnable one.”  It sat at the narrowest part of the Valley, stretching just four miles from Little North Mountain to Massanutten Mountain.

In addition to the natural strength, the Confederates had constructed earthworks along the ridgelines, stretching from the steep heights overlooking the Valley Turnpike on the east to the lesser height on the Barb Farm (the target property in this preservation project) on the west.

“Hills high and commanding, [were] crowned with earthworks and artillery, separated by rugged ravines which were blocked up with slashed and fallen timber, every rod of hill and hollow well-guarded by rifle pits and abattis and bayonets.” – Union officer Aldace Walker

Fisher’s Hill’s defenses had served Early well earlier in the campaign, when he had withdrawn there when threatened by superior Federal numbers – and Sheridan had wisely declined to attack.  But now the situation had changed.

After his army’s heavy losses at Third Winchester, Early no longer had enough men to adequately man the defenses.  Union Capt. John De Forest said the position “was too big for Early’s enfeebled army.”  Believing the greatest threat was on his right, Early put his strongest forces on that end and in the middle.  His vulnerable left was held by a thin line of dismounted cavalry under Gen. Lunsford Lomax.

“[Our] lines were very much extended and thinly held with no defenses save the occasional piles of fence rails or some such shelter.” – Maj. George Booth, one of Lomax’s staff officers,

Unfortunately for Early, that weak flank is where the Federals planned their main attack…

For more on the battle and the action on the Barb Farm, click here.