I’m writing to ask you to help finish a fight that we began nearly two years ago – a fight to save the Bell property and Linden Hall on the Third Winchester Battlefield.
We’ve already raised well over three quarters of a million dollars in state and federal funding for this project. In addition, we’ve had terrific support from some key donors. Early in the planning process, members of our Board of Trustees, led by Col. Hugh Sproul, raised an amazing $51,000 for this effort. Now, thanks to a donation from Tom and Kathy Bell, and $6,000 generously raised by our friends the Shenandoah Valley Civil War Era Dancers, we are on the cusp of success – poised to forever save this property and its historic furnishings and to immediately open it to the public. All we need to do is raise the last $74,355 to complete this amazing deal and begin interpreting this site. That’s less than 10% of the total cost. Or, to put it another way, we will leverage every dollar that you contribute to save this property by almost 10 to 1. But we need your support to close the deal.
If we act now, we can save an acre of battlefield in the heart of the City of Winchester; one of the last available parcels of the 19th century streetscape, where the final chilling moments of the Third Battle of Winchester (fought September 19, 1864) played out. Saving this part of the battlefield reminds us that this war was waged as families watched in terror from their windows.
When the Confederate battle line finally broke under furious Union pressure late that day, the fighting spilled into the streets of Winchester and around the Bell property and Linden Hall. Confederate troops that tried to make a final stand on the outskirts of the city in a desperate attempt to save their army and their lives were pushed back across and around the Bell property. The scene was as chaotic and dramatic as any battle scene imaginable. Small arms and artillery mingled into one deafening roar as the Federal army bore down on the now broken and fleeing Confederates. It was every man for himself, as soldiers of both armies fought down streets and alleys and from house to house. As the wave of battle swept across the Bell property, Linden Hall was like a great rock in the swirling waters of battle, with Confederate troops breaking around it as they streamed to the rear, searching for a place to make a stand or a way to safety.
The Civil War brought the death and destruction of total war to our doorsteps. Across farmsteads and down city streets warring armies – the greatest forces ever assembled in the western Hemisphere – battled to the death in a struggle that would forever define the future of this country. Gettysburg; Vicksburg; Fredericksburg; New Market; Winchester – it’s easy to forget that before these were the names of battles they were places that peopled called home; people like you and I.
All across the battlefields of this nation are homes and farmsteads that have become household names for many of us. The Roulette Farm and Sherrick House at Antietam; the Cadori Farm and Jennie Wade House at Gettysburg; the Bushong Farm and Strayer House at New Market; and the Carter House at Franklin. These are just a few of the places that were swept up in conflict and are now forever inseparable landmarks of the battles that raged around them. They are symbols of strength and resilience through battle and its aftermath, and through the reunification and reconstruction of a nation. And most importantly, they are places where people can see reflections of themselves in the stories of our past – places where the personal cost of war can be felt and the social and political reasons for the conflict can be explored and discussed.
The Bell property and Linden Hall in the heart of Winchester are just such places. They are visible, indelible examples of a cold, brutal truth of the Civil War – that all too often there was no dividing line between the battlefront and the home front. The war, to the great horror of those who lived through it, was everywhere.
Now we can assure that the Bell property and Linden Hall will not suffer the same fate as many of the other war-time landmarks – demolished and gone forever. But we need your support. I’m asking you to contribute to this effort; help us save this portion of the Third Winchester battlefield; and to open it to the public by this summer.
With your support, we will not only be preserving part of a battlefield; we’ll also be preserving a moving memorial to the soldiers and civilians whose lives were forever shattered by the war – and we’ll be paying a small part of the debt we owe to their sacrifices, and to their memories.