Published on October 14, 2019

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First-Ever Preservation Effort at Piedmont!

Click image to see map of battle and target property

For the first time ever – after decades of attempts – we are on the cusp of saving part of the Piedmont Battlefield.

The Battle of Piedmont, fought on June 5, 1864, was a crucial and hard-fought clash where over 2,000 Americans become casualties. But no preservation organization and no government agency has ever been able to protect a single acre of this land as the historic battlefield landscape that it is.

With your help, that’s all about to change.

A short time ago, we were notified of a 3-acre parcel in the heart of the Piedmont battlefield that was being subdivided into two residential building lots. Thanks to the quick actions of neighbors and the willingness of the owner to give us favorable terms, we were able to put the two lots under contract before they hit the market.

The total cost to save this land will be about $130,000. Col. Hugh Sproul, the incoming Chairman of the SVBF Board, kicked off our fundraising effort by generously donating the $10,000 down payment. The property owners have afforded us the time that we need to apply for a federal grant to assist with the purchase of the property, but we still need to raise $45,000 that, per our agreement, must be paid to the owners before the end of the year. We will then need to raise an additional $20,000 to pay for surveys, appraisals, attorney fees, and other costs – meaning we need to raise $65,000 in all. I’m coming to you today because you and I have to join together to raise that $65,000.

Grumble Jones and David Hunter

With your help – we have a chance to gain a foothold for preservation by preserving these three acres. And this property is incredibly historic…. land where blue and grey rushed to seize the fatal gap; land near where Grumble Jones fell; and land where the battle reached its chaotic climax.

And I have additional exciting news: thanks to this preservation effort – this first foothold at Piedmont – a neighboring landowner has already come forward expressing interest in preserving an enormous parcel of land on this battlefield. I will keep you updated as that moves forward.

This moment has been 155 years in coming. I know we won’t miss this golden opportunity – because I know that you’re just as excited as I am – and, like me, you know just how important this is. With your support, we can achieve not just our next preservation victory; we can achieve our first ever preservation victory at one of the most pristine, beautiful, and historically important battlefields in the Valley.

 

“The Battle [of Piedmont] is scarcely more than mentioned…yet the regiments engaged suffered as terribly and fought as bravely as any equal body of troops in any battle of the war.” – Union Col. Thomas F. Wildes, 116th Ohio

The Battle of Piedmont:  “Suffered as Terribly”

Click image to see historic sketch

In the spring of 1864, the first Union advance south “up” the Shenandoah Valley ended in disaster at the Battle of New Market.  By late May, the Federals were on the move again, now under the command of Gen. David “Black Dave” Hunter.  By early June they were bearing down on their objective – the vital rail and supply center of Staunton, Virginia.

Confederate commander Gen. William E. “Grumble” Jones hurriedly gathered a force to block Hunter’s advance.  Hunter marched southeast to Port Republic on June 4, but Jones moved east to block Hunter, and sent Gen. John Imboden and his cavalry to Mt. Meridian, three miles south of Port Republic, to delay the Federals.

On the morning of June 5, Federal cavalry advanced south and met Imboden. The Federals were initially driven back, but after being reinforced they sent the Confederates tumbling south.  Confederate Capt. John Opie hurried his Augusta County Reserves northward in an attempt to hold back the Federal cavalry.  Opie repulsed a frontal assault, but withdrew when Federals moved around his flank.  Opie joined with other reinforcements a short distance south and helped delay the Union advance as Grumble Jones set up his main defensive line near the village of Piedmont.

“Now men, if it is necessary to run, I will start first, but, if any man runs before I do, I will shoot him!” – Confederate Capt. John Opie

Jones anchored the main part of his army on a bend of the Middle River.  The other part was in the woods south and east of Piedmont.  Between the two parts was a gap, several hundred yards wide – a gap that would prove decisive during the battle…

For more on the battle and the actions on the target property, click here