WASHINGTON - The National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program (NPS ABPP) awarded a $4.6 million Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant to protect 250.84 acres of the Williamsburg Battlefield in York County, Virginia. The wooded property witnessed several centuries of occupation and struggle, including fierce fighting during the Civil War’s 1862 Peninsula Campaign. Archeological investigations have revealed key details of this battle and promises to expand and enrich our understanding of the people—enslaved and free—who toiled on this land.
“This grant represents the largest single grant in the American Battlefield Protection Program's history and underscores the value of historic properties and green spaces outside federal lands. The preservation of this battlefield is the result of nearly a decade of organizing and planning at the local, state and national levels and exemplifies what we can achieve when we work across boundaries,” said NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge.
The land is rich with potential and holds many important stories. On the morning of May 5, 1862, an enslaved person approached Union commanders at Williamsburg with some vital intelligence. Confederate troops had hastily abandoned nearby redoubts after a skirmish the previous day, leaving their forces open to attack. Union Gen. Winfield Hancock moved to occupy the redoubts, anchoring his artillery on a nearby farm. Facing a well defended opponent, Confederate reinforcements under Gen. Jubal Early advanced on the farm. The subsequent fighting resulted in the annihilation of Early's 5th North Carolina Infantry. A Union soldier described the carnage as a horrible sight, recording that “Our men were busy all day in burying the dead and taking care of the wounded rebels.” In the battle’s aftermath, Union forces used the Custis barn and stable as a field hospital and buried the dead where they fell.
Archeologists have located key sites of the battlefield as well as evidence of the Custis farmstead and an earlier plantation on the property that will be acquired and protected with grant funds. Future research will reveal more about the people and actions that took place on these lands, especially those of African descent who were enslaved at a network of five York County plantations. Virginia’s Departments of Conservation and Recreation and Historic Resources, in partnership with the American Battlefield Trust, will use this grant to protect this special place and share its varied stories for generations to come.
NPS ABPP’s Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants empower preservation partners nationwide to acquire and preserve threatened battlefields on American soil. In addition, the program administers three other grants:?Preservation Planning, Battlefield Interpretation and Battlefield Restoration Grants. This financial assistance generates community-driven stewardship of historic resources at the state, tribal and local levels.
Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants are available on a rolling basis. To learn more about how to apply, head to NPS ABPP’s website. For questions about NPS ABPP’s grants, contact the program at e-mail us.
Posted: November 23, 2021
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