Published on September 9, 2020

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A Moment That We Will Remember for a Long Time

Click image to see map of battle and target properties

You and I have the amazing opportunity to forever protect and open to the public over 145 acres in the center of the Cross Keys Battlefield, creating – for the first time – the real possibility of a battlefield park experience at this hallowed site!  And all we need is $47,000.

With your help, we can purchase the 95-acre Lee-Jackson Property, and pay for the cost of transferring the adjoining 50-acre Widow Pence Farm to the ownership of the Battlefields Foundation. Combined, this is 145 acres that you and I can open to the public, interpret for generations – and protect forever.

All of this comes on the heels of the huge preservation success that you were able to secure earlier this year at Cross Keys – with the preservation of the 173-acre Smith Farm.

We have a chance to make a huge difference at Cross Keys.  This is a moment in our preservation partnership that you and I will remember for a long, long time.  We’ll be able to say that the summer of 2020 is when we preserved much of the center of the Cross Keys Battlefield and began opening this stunning landscape as a battlefield park.

If you look at the map above and the historic sketch below, you will see just how crucial this ground was during the battle – and just how critical it is to protect and interpret it today.  During the battle, it was on this land that Gen. Isaac Trimble and his men repulsed the attacking Federals at point-blank range in what would later be called “the slaughter of the 8th New York” – the pivotal action during the battle.

Detail from watercolor illustration of the attack of the 8th New York by eyewitness Pvt. Henry Berckhoff of the 8th New York. Gilder Lehrman Collection.

So how are we protecting and taking ownership of these 145 acres?  How did this great moment in preservation come about?  Well, it’s a combination of two opportunities that have come together at the same time.

First, we have worked closely through the years with the Lee-Jackson Educational Foundation, whose founder purchased the two-parcel, 95-acre Lee-Jackson property over 50 years ago.  Now, the Lee-Jackson Foundation is willing to sell their property to us at a cost far below the appraised value.  But to pay for the due diligence costs and get this purchase off the ground we must raise $39,000.

The second property is the 50-acre Widow Pence FarmDr. and Mrs. Irvin and Nancy Hess, long-time owners of the historic farm, have donated this entire property to the Battlefields Foundation so that we can make it the center of a future battlefield experience that will be open to the public year round.  It has cost us just about $8,000 to transfer this property – so for only $8,000 the Widow Pence Farm is ours forever – ours to open for generations to enjoy and experience.

This photo (looking west) shows portions of both target properties, with the Hess property on the left and the Lee-Jackson property on the right. The Confederates were positioned along the present-day tree line at the center, and the 8th New York advanced from the right.

These two land transactions will bring us closer to uniting all of the previously preserved lands at Cross Keys, and greatly facilitate a future battlefield-wide trail system.

All we need to raise to bring all 145 acres into the fold and have them available forever to inspire and educate future generations is $47,000.

With your help, we can seize this moment – and win a landmark preservation victory.   Please do all that you can to help us raise the $47,000 we need to complete this incredible project.

To see the complete letter from SVBF CEO Keven Walker, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

“Poor fellows, they did not know what was in store for them behind that fence.” – Confederate William McClendon, 15th Alabama

“A Bengal Tiger Ready to Spring”: The Battle of Cross Keys

Click image above to see historic sketch

As they advanced to attack at Cross Keys on the morning of June 8, 1862, the members of the Union 8th New York Volunteer Infantry – the “First German Rifles” – were singing a German folk song, “Hinaus in die Ferne” (“Out Into the Distance”) and marching as if they were on parade.

One Confederate later recalled how the Federals advanced “across the clover field [on the target properties] in beautiful line.” Their commander, Col. Francis Wutschel, walked “backwards in front of them, seeing that they preserved a per-
fect alignment just as though they were drilling” as they descended into a hollow and briefly disappeared from view.

Unfortunately for the advancing Federals, “they did not know what was in store for them”; Col. Wutschel had failed to deploy a line of skirmishers to scout the way ahead.* They believed the Confederates were a half mile away… but as they emerged from the hollow they were only 50 yards from a fence line crowded with Confederate soldiers, their muskets leveled, laying like “a Bengal tiger when he crouches down ready to spring.”

Disaster was about to strike the 8th New York…

For more on the battle and the actions on the target properties, click here.

“I am writing on the ground where so many of the Eighth New-York met their doom.” – Charles Webb, reporter, New York Times