Published on May 29, 2020

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The Best Deal the Foundation Has Been Afforded in the Last 20 Years

Click image to see map of battle and target property

Thanks to the generosity of the property owner, we can now save the 173-acre Smith Farm on the Cross Keys Battlefield.  This is the single most-threatened site on this battlefield and one of the most threatened in the entire country.  And this might be the most exciting opportunity that we’ve had to save any one particular battlefield parcel in many, many years.

The Battle of Cross Keys, fought on June 8, 1862, was the first of Stonewall Jackson’s “twin victories” at the close of his legendary Valley Campaign.  (For more on the battle, see the historic sketch here.)

And this project will not only protect a critical part of that battlefield; it is possibly the best deal the Foundation has been afforded in the last 20 years.

We’ve been given the opportunity to forever protect 173 core acres of this battlefield with an easement valued at over $1.5 million . . . and all you and I need to do is raise the funds needed to complete the deal.  That’s right.  We’ve secured an easement preserving this property for all time – an easement valued at over a million and a half dollars – and all we need to raise is $45,000 to put toward our mounting backlog of costs associated with bringing these projects to fruition.

The Battle of Cross Keys. Sketch by Edwin Forbes. (Library of Congress)

Thanks to the extreme generosity of the landowner, whose family has farmed the property for generations, the total value of the easement is being donated!  But, even when the landowner donates the value of the land or the easement; and even in the rare instance, as is the case with the Smith easement, when the landowner carries much of the cost of the project; there are still tens of thousands of dollars needed to make these preservation projects a reality.

The Smith Farm is crucial to the preservation of the Cross Keys Battlefield.  Not only is it core battlefield land; it stands directly astride the main road from Harrisonburg and, once preserved, will serve as a bulwark against the advancing urban sprawl from that ever-growing community.  The property also encompasses three sides of an extremely busy intersection and has long been sought after by those wanting to establish gas stations and convenience stores at this crossroads.  As if those weren’t reasons enough to save this property; the Smith Farm includes much of a commanding ridge that, if developed, would ruin the viewshed and historic integrity of almost the entire battlefield.

Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson

The preservation of the Smith Farm will be one of our greatest preservation victories.  Mr. Smith has gone above and beyond in his commitment to the preservation of the land that his family has farmed for the better part of a century.  But if we don’t raise the $45,000 that we are incurring to generate and complete these projects we won’t be able to take advantage of the type of extreme generosity that Mr. Smith has shown.  We won’t be able to complete preservation deals like this one.

Please, don’t let projects like this one wither and die on the vine because of a backlog of transaction and due diligence costs.  These battlefields are too important for any of us to have to say ten years from now “we almost saved that land” or “we got close to protecting that property” or even worse, “Do you see where those houses are? That’s all battlefield that we could have saved.”

I know you don’t want to see the Smith Farm or any of these properties lost – any more than I do – but they won’t be saved if everyone relies on someone else to do it.  It has to be you. It has to be all of us. And it has to be now.

Please do all that you can to help us raise the $45,000 that we need in this campaign.  We can’t do this without you.

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







“The musketry was heard in volleys, telling of fearful havoc, slaughter and bloodshed.” – Charles Henry Webb, reporter, New York Times, The Battle of Cross Keys

“The Day Had Now Come”: The Battle of Cross Keys

Click image above to see historic sketch

In the spring of 1862, the Confederate capital of Richmond was in danger of falling to advancing Union armies.  By unleashing a vigorous offensive in the Shenandoah Valley, Confederate Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson sought to create a diversion that would draw Federal troops away from the capital.

After a tactical setback at First Kernstown (March 23), Jackson defeated the Federals at McDowell (May 8), Front Royal (May 23) and First Winchester (May 25).  When he followed up by advancing to the Potomac River, Abraham Lincoln saw an opportunity to trap him, and ordered Federal troops to converge on Strasburg to “get in the enemy’s rear.” By doing so, he played right into Jackson’s hands, fulfilling Jackson’s aim of pulling troops to the Valley and away from Richmond.  But the danger to Jackson was real; more than one southern soldier feared that “it’s all up with us.”

But thanks to hard marching and Union delays, Jackson escaped the trap.  He hurried south, chased by Union Gen. John C. Fremont’s force on the west side of Massanutten Mountain and Gen. James Shields to the east of the 50-mile-long ridgeline.  On June 5, when Jackson reached the end of Massanutten, where the mountain would no longer separate the Union columns, he decided to make a stand before they could unite against him, and turned southeast toward Cross Keys and the critical river junction of Port Republic.

For more on the battle and the actions on the target property, click here

“The day had now come which [we] had sought for about 16 days.” – Union soldier, Battle of Cross Keys