FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 25, 2019
Contact: Keven Walker, SVBF: 540-740-4545 office; John Hutchinson, SVBF: 540-740-4545 office
Battlefields Foundation Announces Preservation Victory at Star Fort
Land was part of two major battles, Second and Third Winchester
WINCHESTER, Va.— Today, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation’s announced the preservation of 10 additional acres of core battlefield in Winchester – land that was part of two major battles, Second Winchester and Third Winchester.
The 10 acres are located under the ramparts of the already-preserved earthworks of Star Fort, and double the Foundation’s holdings at the site. The land, which is adjacent to ever-expanding industrial facilities, had been slated for development – the last piece of available battlefield ground between those industrial lands and the historic fortifications. Now that hallowed ground has been preserved forever.
The preservation of the property was made possible by a very generous donation by the landowners, Dr. Byron Brill, Seth Hardison, and Dean Smith. They donated 50% of the fair market value of the property – a $375,000 donation with a property that was valued at $750,000. “We are immensely grateful,” said Keven Walker, CEO of the Foundation. “Their generosity made this preservation victory possible.” Speaking for the landowners, Dr. Brill said that “We are honored to be a part of this important preservation effort and are thrilled that everything came together to make this happen.”
The balance of the funding was provided by a grant from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program – and by remarkably generous donations by SVBF members and supporters.
These 10 acres were key to two of the most important battles fought in the Valley. During the Second Battle of Winchester (June 13-15, 1863), Federal defenders manned the fort and the rifle pits around it, and exchanged furious artillery fire with the Confederates that had captured West Fort. The 10 recently-preserved acres include the location of rifle pits that were part of the fort’s defenses; where units such as the 5th and 6th Maryland (U.S.) Infantry fought during the battle; and where Federal units gathered prior to making their attempted escape on the night of June 14-15, 1863. The Confederate victory at this battle opened the way for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s invasion that led to Gettysburg.
And these 10 acres again played a key role at the Third Battle of Winchester on September 19, 1864, but this time the Confederates were defending the fortifications and the Federals were the attackers. During the battle, critical back and forth fighting raged across the just-preserved property, including Union Col. James Schoonmaker’s attack that earned him the Medal of Honor. The Union victory at Third Winchester forever changed the course of the war in the Valley, and began a sequence of events that would help ensure Abraham Lincoln’s reelection that November.
Now these 10 acres are not just preserved. Joining these 10 acres to the already-preserved Star Fort property will allow the SVBF to create an almost 20-acre interpretive site, a site where the Foundation will be able to tell the story of the role it played in the two pivotal battles – and the stories of the men who fought and died there.
The already-preserved Star Fort property came to the SVBF in donations from the families of Mr. Hardison and Mr. Smith in 2007, and from the Middlesex Artillery-Fleet’s Battery in 2006. This now defunct reenactment group had acquired the fort and a few acres in a development proffer in 1980. The small, 3-acre preservation was the first battlefield preservation project on the Civil War battlefields in Winchester. Now the preserved site has grown to 20 acres, which, said John Hutchinson, Director of Conservation for the Battlefields Foundation, “is a credit to philanthropy, strong organization, and persistence.”