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Virginia To Assist In Battlefield Preservation

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine announced this morning that the state will help preserve the 205-acre Slaughter Pen Farm, a pivotal part of the Dec. 13, 1862, battle of Fredericksburg. Speaking at the a news conference held at the site, Kaine said Virginia has an obligation to protect its Civil War battlefields.

"Battlefields are our path to telling the story of our nation," he said. "Virginia is the place where this epic struggle to define America took place."

Virginia was central to the War Between the States as a next-door neighbor to Washington, and because Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy. More than a third of the battles of that war took place in Virginia.

Almost three years ago, the Civil War Preservation Trust signed an agreement to purchase the battlefield for $12.3 million. Since then, it has run an intense campaign to raise the funds to pay for the former farm. In 2006, the Interior Department committed $2 million to the effort.

Kaine's announcement didn't make clear if the state would reimburse the Trust or partner with it to pay off the loan. Trust president Jim Ligthizer attended the news conference, as did Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Bill Howell, Virginia State Sen. Edd Houck and Kathleen Kilpatrick, Virginia director of historic resources.

For many years, the part of the battle that took place in Fredericksburg at Marye's Heights has received the most attention from historians. More recent scholarship has shifted interest to the southern part of the battlefield at the farm where the outcome was decided.

At the farm, Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's second corps was arrayed against much larger Union forces. The Union managed to puncture the Confederate line but Southern re-enforcements arrived in time to back up Jackson, giving the victory to the Confederates. That struggle resulted in 5,000 Union casualties and 4,000 for the Confederates.

Amazingly, the land looks today much as it did in 1862. The owners went back to farming after the battle and the land was still being farmed when the property was put on the market three years ago.

By Linda Wheeler  |  March 24, 2009; 1:22 PM ET
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