Published on May 11, 2019

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Help Us Create the New Winchester Battlefields Visitor Center

We need your help to complete and open a new visitor center in Winchester – a major step in our campaign to make America’s future brighter by fostering greater understanding of its past.

With your help, we’ve been able to save thousands of acres of battlefield in the Shenandoah Valley. But we aren’t just working to preserve these battlefields. We are engaged in an audacious effort to open as much of these lands to the public as we possibly can, creating full service battlefield parks throughout the National Historic District.

During the Civil War, Winchester changed hands more than any other town in America; for the people who lived there, strife and stress were constant. Six major battles, from First Kernstown to Third Winchester, raged through and around their town. Now, we are on the cusp of opening a new Visitor Center that will orient, guide, and educate visitors to these battlefields. But we need your help to make that happen. We need you and our other friends across the country to come together to raise the last funds needed to complete the project.

This Visitor Center will include an outdoor visitor’s plaza that, through signage and unmanned exhibits, will provide year-round, 365-day interpretation to visitors from around the world. The staffed Visitor Center building will feature exhibit rooms, an orientation film, an electric map, handouts, guides, and more – all designed to provide an overview of Winchester’s Civil War history and to encourage visitors to explore battlefields and partner sites throughout the area.

But in order to open this new Visitor Center and provide the visitor experience that we envision, a minimum of $270,000 must be raised to complete this first phase of the project. And we need your help to do it. You have already done so much to help save our past. Now we’re asking you to help us change our future. Help us open this Visitor Center, and help us write a new chapter in the history of battlefield preservation in the Shenandoah Valley.

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

“It is thought by many that Winchester will be laid in ashes…” – Winchester diarist Julia Chase, July 6, 1861

Winchester At War

Being an eyewitness to history can be terrifying.  During the Civil War-era, the residents of Winchester lived through a steady drumbeat of such terrors, beginning with the chaos surrounding John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry and reaching a frightful height during four long years of fighting.  Winchester had the misfortune to spend much of the war between the shifting front lines of the armies, leading to 6 major battles and innumerable smaller clashes in and around the city, and its famous frequency of changing hands – as many as 72 times.

Winchester’s civilians included firebrand Confederates who chaffed under Union occupation; pro-Union residents who tried to aid Federals while avoiding their neighbors’ wrath; and free and enslaved African-Americans who dealt with uncertain futures during both war and peace.

But it was the battles that most impacted the city, with the violence often spilling onto their doorsteps.  These were tragic times.  But allowing those times to fade from memory – a genuine threat in today’s world – would be a new tragedy.   We’re working to prevent that from happening.

To read more about “Winchester at War,” click here.

“[I] sat all that fearful afternoon in terror for fear my boys had come to harm… Oh the anguish of those hours!” –  Cornelia Peake McDonald, March 23, 1862, First Battle of Kernstown