We’re thrilled to bring you a battlefield preservation opportunity that’s as important as they come – and one that enables us to match contributions $15.34 to $1.
We have an opportunity to save 107 acres of “The Coaling” at Port Republic; a chance to save 107 acres where the fate of Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign was decided. If we act now, we can save the ridge that Confederate Gen. Richard Taylor’s Louisianans charged as they fought to seize victory for Jackson’s army, and we can do it by multiplying every dollar contributed more than 15 times! I’ll tell you more about the history of the site in a moment, but first let me tell you how we arrived at this point, and how we are able to close this deal with a more than a 15 to 1 match.
After the war, these 107 acres of wooded ridgeline, which were once used for the production of charcoal and were so critical during the battle, remained undisturbed and virtually unchanged for more than a century. That all ended when the property was divided into building lots, and the infrastructure for a rural residential subdivision was installed: a gravel road was punched through the property, and electrical service was run to the lots. The lots went up for sale, and two were sold, and a house was constructed on one of the lots in the rear of the property.
But then the bottom fell out of the housing market. The economic downturn inadvertently preserved what was on its way to becoming a new neighborhood. And that brings us to today.
Today, the housing market has recovered to the point where there is once again interest in speculative residential development, new home construction, and investment in building lots – and there has been renewed interest in these 107 acres. We got word that the lots were back on the open real estate market, and were actively being shown to prospective buyers. We quickly reached out to the owners – and, as luck would have it, we got to them just before two of the lots were put under contract.
The owners, two local brothers, have been fantastic and have agreed to work with us to preserve the entire 107 acres. They’ve given us an extended option on the property and owner financing terms which together will give us the time we’ll need to complete the purchase. So we’ve done the math and here’s where we are:
The purchase price of the property will be just over a million and a half dollars: $1,534,000, to be exact. But by combining funds from Federal and State grant programs we will be able to purchase this property if we can raise just $100,000 dollars! Now, I know as well as you do that $100,000 is a significant amount of money.
But I also know you will agree that investing $100,000 to permanently preserve 107 acres of priceless battlefield is a great investment. For just about $1,000 an acre, you and I can save the place that witnessed some of the most horrific hand to hand fighting of the entire Civil War.
And we don’t plan to just preserve this piece of hallowed ground and stop at that. We plan to open the land up to the public as a place of remembrance, reflection, and learning. We’d like to work with our friends at the Civil War Trust to connect these 107 acres with the property that they have already saved at the Coaling, creating a combined visitor experience with interpretive trails and markers. We want to save this ground and open it as a 107 acre battlefield park; a 100 acre outdoor classroom; a 107 acre memorial to the men who struggled and the men who died there.
The fighting on the Coaling climaxed in “a pandemonium of cheers, shouts, shrieks, and groans, lighted by the flames from cannon and muskets.” One Confederate described “a whirlwind of blood and death sweeping round and round the guns” that “raged frightfully, resembling more the onslaught of maddened savages than the fighting of civilized men.” Possession of the height changed back and forth, but Taylor’s men finally swept the Federals from the hilltop. With the key position in Confederate hands, the momentum of the battle changed, and the Federals were soon in retreat north – and Stonewall had a hard-fought victory that brought a close to the campaign.
Today, the Coaling is quiet. The sound of the guns and the shrieks of the wounded have been replaced by the peaceful sounds of a Virginia woodlot. But make no mistake. There is a silent battle raging there today – a new battle for the Coaling. Now the battle is against time itself – against time and the change that often comes with it. What we are fighting for – you and I – is the same ground where the fate of our nation once rested. Like Taylor, we must take the Coaling – we must HOLD the Coaling. The fate of our battle depends on it and we need your help.
As we wrap up this year, I’m asking you to make one more charge. I’m asking you to save one more priceless piece of battlefield. We are going to do it; we are going to preserve forever these 107 acres of the Port Republic Battlefield. But it’s going to take all of us. I know you won’t let this amazing opportunity pass us by – you never do.
From all of us here – your friends in the Shenandoah Valley – Merry Christmas…and I look forward to hearing from you.