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$2M Federal Money Goes To Slaughter Pen Farm

Deborah Fitts

- (December 2006) FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - With the bloody battlefield of the Slaughter Pen Farm as his backdrop, U.S. Secre-tary of the Interior Dick Kempthorne brought the welcome news in October that the federal government will kick in $2 million toward preservation of the 208-acre property.

The Oct. 16 news conference, sponsored by the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), highlighted what Trust spokesman Jim Campi said was an almost-unprecedented level of interest regarding the purchase. The Trust bought the farm last June.

"No other property we've acquired since Brandy Station has generated this kind of enthusiasm," Campi said. The $12 million buy represents "the most expensive private battlefield preservation effort in American history."

The $2 million in federal dollars, appropriated by Congress from the Land & Water Conservation Fund, must be matched one-to-one. Campi said to date the Trust has raised about one-third of the $12 million. "We knew this was going to be a multi-year effort," he said. "It was such an unprecedented price tag for us."

Kempthorne called the acquisition "a model for conservation partnerships throughout the nation." He said, "The Civil War Preservation Trust, working with local preservationists and government officials on the federal, state and local levels, has been able to protect one of the most historically significant battlefield properties in the nation."

CWPT President Jim Lighthizer said his 70,000-member nonprofit was "enormously grateful" for the $2 million, which he called "a crucial component in our campaign."

Campi said afterward that the existence of the Slaughter Pen Farm caught many by surprise. "There was a feeling that there was nothing left to save at Fredericksburg," he explained.

In fact, other than the Sunken Road, most of the land fought over on Dec. 13, 1862, has been lost, Campi pointed out, so that visitors to Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park tend to head for the Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania units. "Thanks to the Slaughter Pen Farm," that should change, he said. "It has captured people's imaginations."

More than 5,000 casualties were tallied at the farm during the battle, and four Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded for actions on the property that day. Park historian Frank O'Reilly, author of "The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock," calls the Slaughter Pen Farm "the very heart and soul of the Fredericksburg battlefield. Without it, nothing makes sense. It is where the battle was won and lost."

Campi noted that the farm is "the only place on the battlefield where a visitor can still follow the Union assault on that bloody day from beginning to end."

Joining Kempthorne at the news conference were Bill Howell, speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, and Virginia State Sen. Ed Houck. Both long-time supporters of battlefield preservation in Virginia, they advocated for creation of the Virginia Civil War Historic Site Preservation Fund. Signed into law in June, the fund provides 50-50 matching money to preserve battlefield land in the state.

Campi noted that the Trust was involved in creation of the fund, as the nonprofit becomes "more engaged at the state level." He said some of the $500,000 available this year in the fund will likely support the Slaughter Pen Farm campaign.

Otherwise, "close to one-half" of the $12 million will be raised in private funds, according to Campi. An appeal to Trust members early in the summer was the organization's most successful ever, garnering $1 million "in relatively small dollar amounts."

Campi cautioned, "It's not the last time that folks are going to be hearing from us" regarding the Slaughter Pen Farm.

The farm is located on Route 2 a mile or two south of Fredericksburg. CWPT moved quickly to save it when it went on the market as a desirable industrial site in December 2005. Local homebuilder Tricord Inc., which partnered with the Trust in preserving land at Chancellorsville, helped CWPT take the property off the market. Sun Trust Bank provided a loan to carry the Trust during the fundraising campaign.

The Slaughter Pen Farm adjoins the Fredericksburg unit of the battlefield park. Campi noted that adding the prop-erty to the park would require a boundary change, but he said the Trust hopes someday to turn the land over to the park.
Meanwhile, Campi said, "We're examining alternatives" for public access to the farm. Visits at present are possi-ble only by appointment.

The Trust is currently completing interpretive signage for Third Winchester, and next will turn to interpretation for its new property at the first-day Chancellorsville battlefield. The Slaughter Pen Farm will come next, Campi said, "so it will be a couple of years."

The Central Virginia Battlefields Trust has pledged $1 million to the Slaughter Pen Farm campaign. They have scheduled a fundraiser Dec. 2 at the new National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico.

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