Published Tuesday, Jul. 14, 2015, 6:49 am
Five acres on the core of the Third Winchester battlefield are now forever protected. This includes the site where the Army of the Shenandoah, commanded by Union Gen. Philip Sheridan crossed Opequon Creek early on the morning of September 19, 1864.
Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation (SVBF) closed on the project on July 13. Keven Walker, CEO of the Battlefields Foundation commented “This preservation success would not have been possible without the support of our members and donors. As an organization, we are so thankful for their commitment to the preservation of sites such as the Opequon Crossing.”
The five acre tract sits on the east bank of the Opequon Creek, the site contains the original roadbed of the Winchester-Berryville Pike and the place where the pike historically forded the creek. The SVBF made its appeal to protect the property in March of this year. The project called for the organization and its partners to raise $150,000 in 120 days to preserve the Opequon Crossing site. With the successful closing of the project, the first piece of land associated with the Third Battle of Winchester in Clarke County is now preserved. “Clarke County played a huge role in the early phases of Third Winchester. We believe the protection of this property highlights this and will give people an even better understanding of what took place there over 150 years ago” Walker added.
Around 4:30 am on the morning of the September 19th, Union cavalry charged down the Berryville Pike and crashed into the Confederate defenders at the crossing, an exchange of gunfire that would launch the largest, costliest battle ever fought in the Valley. But even beyond the battle itself, this action commenced the 1864 Shenandoah Campaign in earnest. Over the next month, from Third Winchester to Fisher’s Hill, the Burning, Tom’s Brook, and Cedar Creek, the fortunes of the Confederates and Federals in the Valley would change dramatically … and with it the military and political course of the nation.
The property was in a large-lot subdivision when its owner approached the Foundation last year to see if it could be protected. The successful completion of the project was made possible with additional support coming from the Civil War Trust and National Park Service. Now with the Opequon Crossing protected, generations to come will be able to view the site where Third Winchester began.