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Big Piece of 3rd Winchester Battlefield Preserved

As reported here earlier, it's official: A 209-acre family farm that saw much of the intense fighting during the Third Battle of Winchester on Sept. 19, 1864, will be preserved as open land, according to an announcement Wednesday by the Civil War Preservation Trust, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundationand the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation.

Representatives of each stood on the stubble of a hay field Wednesday and said they had purchased the Huntsberry Farm for $3.35 million.

The parcel is particularly important because it borders on other property already purchased for preservation. All together, the various parcels add up to 575-acres of a battlefield where 54,000 Americans tried to kill each other at the beginning of Union General Philip Sheridan's campaign to drive the Confederates from the valley.

Most of the purchase price has been covered through matching grants but there remains $690,000 to be covered. The Trust and the Foundation hope to raise that amount through donations.

There are 11 heirs to the farm and one of them, Bob Hunstberry, said it had been a difficult process to get everyone to agree to the sale. The family had been constrained until recently from selling the land due to restrictions in the will, he said. Huntsberry recalled spending summers at the farm and having, "a great time, the kind of great time a kid would have with all this space."

He pointed to a tumble-down stone chimney that had once been part of the original log cabin dating back to the late 1770s. Near by a brick chimney rose from some tangled shrubs and vines and he said it represented a later addition.

"The house was torn apart by people looking for relics," he said. "They did not have permission to be here. They pulled it all down board by board."

He said no one had lived on the property for 20 years or more.

Augustine Huntsberry was living in the house with his family when the battle took place all around him. A piece of his property became known as the Middle Field by the soldiers who fought there that day. More than 1,500 men were killed or wounded in that area of the farm alone.

Historian David W. Lowe wrote in a National Park Service study that, "Third Winchester was the largest and most desperately contested battle of the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley, resulting in more than 9,000 casualties. The Union 19th Corps sustained 40 percent casualties (2,074 men) and lost every regimental commander during its assaults on the Middle Field and [nearby] Second Woods."

At the press conference, the Trust's president, James Lighthizer, said he employs "200-year-rule" to decide if his organization should purchase land.

"That means we ask ourselves if people coming to the site 200 years from now will get a sense of history," he said. "Ten or 20 acres by itself would not pass the test but this purchase does. It gives us a mass of 575 acres."

Plans call for the land to be open to the public.

By Linda Wheeler  |  November 12, 2008; 5:45 PM ET
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What about the territory (vast though it is) that encompasses Stonewall Jackson's game of hide and seek through the passes west of the Shenanadoah? Perhaps all of the land is too extensive to preserve but it seems as though some area should be set aside for the education of Americans about the great piece of warfare by which Jackson eluded and bedeviled the Union Army and kept them from gaining control over the Valley --- the breadbasket of the Confederacy and the "thoroughfare" to the Union Capitol.

Thanks. Jim (an Oregon Yankee).

Posted by: pcvd | November 13, 2008 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Jim (an Oregon Yankee): As I see it, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation and its partners are doing great work to preserve the Civil War battlefields in the Valley where Stonewall Jackson fought. Please see

Posted by: ArlingtonPreservationist | November 13, 2008 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Oregon Yankee Jim--if you visit the Shenandoah Valley (please do!) the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society has a 3D electric map with an extensive audio-visual presentation about Jackson's Valley Campaign. You're right, his "foot cavalry" (nickname because of their speed on foot) maneuvered brilliantly through the mountains.

The news about this battlefield donation is wonderful!

Posted by: CherieOK | November 14, 2008 7:59 AM | Report abuse

I'm excited! This is where my (southern) ancestors were captured. I THINK it was on this farm, too, though my research is inconclusive as of yet.

Any word on when it will be open to the public?

Posted by: Section506 | November 14, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

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